Everything you need to know about male menopause, yes it’s a thing!
Andropause, much like women's menopause, is a legitimate condition. Here's what you should understand about it.
A middle aged man sitting on a bed holding a alarm clock. Picture: iStock
We’ve all heard about menopause where women’s hormones go haywire, and they suddenly start experiencing hot flushes at the most inconvenient times. But did you know there is also something called “male menopause”?
If you are nearing your 50s, male menopause could be right on your doorstep. Experts at Affinity Health explain the science behind male menopause and what signs to look out for.
Understanding male menopause
Male menopause, also known as andropause, differs from female menopause.
In women, there’s a rapid decrease in hormone levels, especially estrogen, which results in the end of menstrual cycles and fertility.
For men, the hormone changes are more gradual. Testosterone, the main male sex hormone, plays a crucial role in this process.
As men age, their testosterone levels naturally decrease, usually beginning in middle age. This decline is typically around 1% per year after the age of 30.
However, in some men, this reduction is more pronounced, leading to a range of symptoms.
Symptoms of andropause may resemble those of regular female menopause, but they can also be linked to other health issues or lifestyle factors.
Affinity Health points out typical symptoms connected to andropause:
- Fatigue: Men might feel continual fatigue or a drop in their energy levels.
- Depression and irritability: Mood changes, such as feelings of sadness, irritability, or a reduced sense of overall well-being, may occur.
- Reduced libido: Andropause could result in a reduced interest in sexual activity or a decline in sexual desire.
- Difficulties with memory and concentration: Men might encounter memory issues, struggles with concentration, or a decline in cognitive abilities.
- Sleep problems: Insomnia, trouble falling or staying asleep, or experiencing poor sleep quality can all be signs of andropause.
- Hot flushes: Some men might encounter hot flushes, similar to what women experience during menopause. When testosterone levels decrease, it can influence the hypothalamus, the brain’s region responsible for regulating body temperature. Consequently, the hypothalamus may misinterpret signals and cause abrupt widening of blood vessels and sweating to cool down the body.
- Decreased muscle strength and stamina: Men going through andropause might observe a reduction in muscle strength and stamina. They could encounter difficulties in participating in physical activities or notice a decrease in muscle firmness.
- Increased body fat and weight gain: Andropause can lead to alterations in body composition, including an increase in body fat, especially in the abdominal area. This change in how fat is distributed can result in weight gain and a shift in body shape.
- Joint pain and stiffness: Certain men might undergo joint discomfort, stiffness, or aching during andropause. These symptoms can be linked to reduced testosterone levels since testosterone contributes to maintaining joint health and lubrication.
- Changes in hair growth: During andropause, alterations in hair growth patterns can occur. Men may observe thinning or hair loss on the scalp, as well as increased hair growth on other parts of the body, like the ears or nose.
“It’s important to note these symptoms may not solely result from lowered testosterone levels. They can also be attributed to other age-related factors, lifestyle choices, or underlying health conditions. says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.
“For instance, obesity, diabetes , thyroid conditions, or depression can contribute to or exacerbate the symptoms experienced by men during andropause.
“If you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of andropause, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional who can evaluate your specific situation,”says Hewlett.
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Diagnosing male menopause
Diagnosing andropause can be complex due to its various potential causes. Doctors usually consider both the symptoms and testosterone levels when making a diagnosis.
It’s essential to remember that testosterone levels naturally fluctuate during the day, so a single test may not be enough for a definitive diagnosis. Therefore, multiple tests or a series of tests might be necessary.
Can male menopause be treated?
When a diagnosis of andropause is confirmed, the most common treatment is Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT).
The goal of TRT is to bring hormone levels back to those of a younger man and relieve symptoms. TRT can be delivered through injections, skin gels, patches, or implants.
Potential risks of treatment
Although TRT can be beneficial in alleviating symptoms like low mood, fatigue, and reduced sexual drive, it’s essential to be aware of potential risks.
TRT can lead to side effects such as acne and an increased red blood cell count. Hence, it’s crucial to discuss TRT with a healthcare provider, carefully weighing the potential benefits against the risks.
Lifestyle modifications and coping strategies
In addition to TRT, addressing lifestyle factors is crucial for managing andropause symptoms. This includes maintaining a balanced diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and reducing alcohol consumption.
Regular check-ups are important to monitor key health indicators like blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar, which can impact andropause symptoms.
Psychotherapy or counseling can also be helpful in dealing with the emotional challenges of aging and bodily changes, providing strategies to cope and adapt.
Breaking the stigma
While the term “male menopause” may be somewhat misleading, the collection of symptoms linked to the aging process and declining testosterone levels in men is undoubtedly genuine.
“It’s crucial to remember that these changes are a normal part of ageing and not indicative of a man losing his masculinity or vigour.
“Open dialogues about this topic can break the barriers of misunderstanding and stigma, allowing men to seek help to navigate this natural phase of life.
“Knowledge is power – by understanding andropause, men can better manage the changes and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle well into their golden years,” further elaborated Hewlett.