WHAT IS ANDROPAUSE?
We all know that women go through menopause. In recent years, scientific research has proven that men too, undergo a menopause-like condition as they approach their mid-40s. Androgen deficiency is diagnosed only in men with consistent signs and symptoms, and low serum testosterone levels.9 This condition is termed andropause, or late onset hypogonadism.
Andropause usually takes place around the age of 40 when testosterone levels in men gradually become reduced.The process happens slowly over years or decades. That is why andropause often goes unnoticed in many men.
Another reason why andropause tends to be overlooked is that it tends to happen at mid-life, when most men reshuffle their priorities.Many will attribute the poor memory and concentration, loss of sexual desire and depressed mood to a mid-life crisis, not realizing that they are going through another phase of life, just as women do.
The most common symptoms are changes in attitudes and moods, fatigue, loss of energy, low sexual desire and physical agility. More of a concern is the physical impact such as loss of muscle mass and strength, and increased body fat.
Certain medications, moderate obesity, low thyroid levels and complications related to kidney disease can bring about earlier andropause.
Just as estrogen is responsible for a woman’s feminine characteristics, testosterone is responsible for masculine characteristics.
It is produced in the testes and is responsible for the development of the genitals, body and facial hair and building muscle mass. Testosterone also helps maintain sexual drive and a healthy sperm count for reproduction.
In the past, it was not possible to assess scientifically whether a man has low testosterone levels. Today, doctors can use a simple blood test to know whether your testosterone levels are normal.
WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR BODY DURING ANDROPAUSE?
After the age of 40, the testosterone level decreases by 2% every year in men. This gradual decline will start to show its effects over the years, causing physical and mental changes to the body.
These changes include:
Brain: Lack of focus, short-term memory loss, indecisiveness, lack of drive and depression.
Body: Muscle mass and muscle strength gradually decline, unless efforts are made to build muscle by exercising or staying physically active. It is also common to feel more tired.
Sexual function: Reducing testosterone levels will affect sexual desire, frequency of nocturnal erections and frequency of sexual intercourse.
Fat levels: Body fat starts to accumulate, especially at the abdomen area.
Hair: Testosterone is responsible for the development and growth of healthy hair. As testosterone levels fall, men will start experiencing hair loss, not just on the head but also on the rest of the body including the armpits, chest, pubic area and face.
COPING WITH ANDROPAUSE
Andropause is often likened to menopause because the symptoms are almost similar but it is different in many ways.
In men, the dropping testosterone levels are unlikely to ever stabilize as it will continue to decline gradually over the years, making a man slowly lose his vitality and energy.
Now that men’s lifespan is extended to eighty and above, it is necessary to tackle andropause before it affects your quality of life. Here are some tips:
Exercise – Physical exercise helps increase your metabolic rate, flexibility and control over your weight thus improving your general health.
Take charge – See a doctor for help if you suspect you have low testosterone levels. Remember low testosterone levels do not just make you less energetic or less focused, but it can have more far-reaching effects such as osteoporosis and obesity.
Dietary changes – With age, a reduction in the intake of high dietary fats and low nutrient foods is beneficial. Reduce or abstain from smoking and alcohol.
If despite lifestyle changes your symptoms still persist, consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis of andropause and to establish if you are suitable for testosterone replacement therapy.
TESTOSTERONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY
The main aim of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is to return testosterone levels to a normal range so that patients can have a better quality of life.Your doctor must be consulted to diagnose andropause, and to determine if you are suitable to be put on TRT.
TRT is recommended for symptomatic men with typical shortage of androgens who have low testosterone levels. TRT users report an improvement in sense of wellbeing. Physical strength is also improved, with an increase in muscle mass, strength and bone mineral density.
TRT also improves sexual function. Testosterone works on most aspects of sexual response such as increased sexual desire.
Men with prostate or breast cancer, recent heart problems, untreated obstructive sleep apnea and excess of red blood cells (erythrocytosis) are not recommended to use TRT.
Speak to your doctor to determine if you are a suitable candidate for TRT. As with any medication, testosterone should be taken under a doctor’s care, with appropriate follow-up evaluations (when necessary).