Men: should you worry about andropause?

(NC)-Between the ages of 40 and 55 or older, men can experience something very close to female menopause called andropause. Both phenomenon are a natural step in the process of aging. For many years, hormone replacement strategies have focused primarily on menopausal women. In women, menopause is marked with the cessation of menstruation, but male menopause may be a misnomer as men continue to be fertile beyond andropause. Not all men get such a clear-cut signal even if they experience drop in hormone levels.

In men, lower levels of available testosterone are responsible for many symptoms, some more difficult to track and more serious than others.

Minimize the impact
All men will experience a lowering of their testosterone levels starting at age 30, but not all will present symptoms such as changes in mood, fatigue, loss of energy, sex drive and physical agility. Although no one can reverse the course of time or nature, there are still things you can do to help uncover the silent effects and prevent the development of certain medical conditions. Low levels of testosterone put men at higher risk of getting osteoporosis or cardiovascular disee.

Exercise, eating healthy foods and managing the weight can help minimize the impact of andropause on how men feel about themselves and others around them. Ask your doctor about available treatments. Hormone replacement therapy for men can help increase available testosterone levels, overcome symptoms and help reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis or cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown that older men with lower levels of testosterone could be at higher risk of developing cognitive/memory diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have also demonstrated that hypogonadal men (those with low testosterone levels) had an increased incidence of depression.

To learn more about andropause, its effects and treatment, talk to your doctor or visit the Canadian Andropause Society

Take andropause seriously
Because it is harder to track, the long-term effects of andropause should not be taken lightly. Although apparent symptoms such as a decline in sexuality and overall energy, changes in mood and depression can really have an impact on the quality of life, the risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis increase in men with andropause and should be closely monitored.

During the Second Annual Andropause Consensus 2001 Meeting the Endocrine Society brought together a group of medical specialists who recommended that screening for testosterone deficiency should begin at age 50 or 55 and be repeated every five years or more frequently if symptoms are present. Ask your physician to have ‘bio-available testosterone’ checked as part of your annual check-up. Restoring testosterone has shown to be beneficial to men on many levels.

In Canada, 20 to 30 per cent of osteoporotic fractures occur in men and the incidence is on the rise. Monitoring the level of testosterone can help prevent osteoporosis. By making a few lifestyle changes, like healthy eating habits, exercising, and better weight management, men can influence the course of things. This can help men feel more energetic, motivated and positive, decrease anger, irritability, sadness and the decline in mood they may have been feeling for a while. Your doctor may also recommend hormone replacement therapy to overcome symptoms, as it has been associated with very positive responses. Talk to your physician to learn more about what testosterone replacement therapy can do for you.

The silent effects of andropause
Although some of the symptoms that accompany andropause are obvious, there are more silent, difficult to track effects that need to be identified. In men with andropause, more bone tissue is lost than regenerated because not as much available testosterone can help bone formation. Also, testosterone provides much of the bone protecting estrogen found in a man’s body. Low testosterone results in more fragile, weaker bones (osteoporosis) leading to increased risk of hip fractures, pain, and in many cases loss of independence. About one in eight men over the age of 50 has osteoporosis.

Although more research needs to be conducted, there seems to be a clear association between a low testosterone level and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.