Most people are aware of the changes that take place as women age and female hormones diminish. With menopause comes a variety of uncomfortable symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, and more. What might surprise some people is that men experience a similar phenomenon as they age. Because male hormones are known as androgens, experts have labelled this phase "andropause."
What is andropause?
Andropause is a life phase experienced as men age. While many hormones are involved in the progress of andropause, testosterone plays a key role. After men reach the age of 30, male testosterone levels decline by roughly 10 percent each decade, resulting in a variety of emotional and physical symptoms. While women enter menopause after menstruation has ceased, men have no clear-cut marker for the beginning of andropause. It takes place gradually, sometimes over a period of decades.
What are the symptoms of andropause?
Declining levels of testosterone bring about a variety of emotional and physical changes in men. Because of the variability in testosterone levels from man to man, symptoms of andropause also vary. Sexual and reproductive symptoms include low libido, a loss of interest in sex, erectile dysfunction, and infertility. Additional symptoms include muscle aches and weakness, sleep disturbance, reduced energy levels, lower physical endurance, hair loss on the body and scalp, and emotional symptoms like depression, anxiety, and irritability.
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As an anabolic hormone, testosterone helps build muscles, connective tissue, and bone, so it is not surprising that men in andropause also experience reduced body composition and bone loss. Although testosterone levels decline in virtually all males as they age, there is no way to predict at what age decline will take place, nor the severity of symptoms.
Are there treatment options for andropause?
Like some women turn to estrogen replacement therapy, some men opt for testosterone replacement therapy or TRT. While it has shown effectiveness for reducing andropause symptoms, it does not trigger the body to make its own testosterone and it comes with side effects for some men. DHEA supplements offer another alternative. DHEA is a 'parent hormone' that the body turns into testosterone in men and estrogen in women. Currently, some people use DHEA to increase muscle mass, strength, and energy, but because it is a steroid, it is banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Many men also use DHEA for erectile dysfunction or ED.
Men experiencing declining testosterone can benefit from a variety of healthy lifestyle choices. These include:
- Regular physical exercise like walking, jogging, biking, swimming, tennis, or basketball
- A healthy diet that contains plenty of vitamin B12, vitamin D, folic acid, and omega-3 fats
- Avoidance of tobacco products and limited alcohol use