Andropause: The Lowdown On The Condition
Getting older for most men is, in many ways, not fun. The body starts to decline because the necessary sex hormones needed for bodily strength and normal male functioning start to decrease over time. Because of this, men end up experiencing unpleasant symptoms that can contribute to a poor quality of life and even make it easier for other conditions or diseases to develop. The technical term for this condition is called andropause.
Menopause and andropause are two conditions that occur as we age. Women go through menopause while men do the same with andropause.
What is Andropause?
Andropause is a hormone-related, male condition that develops over time as a result of the gradual drop in testosterone, especially after age 40, which eventually causes sexual dysfunction in the body. This then leads to a plethora of negative physical and mental symptoms and possible changes in a man’s body.
Studies show that from ages 40-49, as much as five percent of men are already developing andropause. From ages 50-59, the possibility can spike up to as much as 30 percent. From 60-69 years of age, the manifestation of this condition has the potential to affect up to 45 percent of all men. By the time a man is in his 70’s, the condition has a 70 percent chance of developing. Finally, a man’s chance goes up to a whopping 90 percent after 80 years of age.
Most Men Experience Decline in Testosterone in Their Middle Age
Testosterone, the male sex hormone that causes a boy to develop into a man and then once a man, remain a strong, sexually healthy and masculine individual, unfortunately, starts to decrease in production as he ages. The technical name is called Late Onset Hypogonadism (LOH).
The reasons for this phenomenon have several factors such as obesity or other conditions/disorders that develop in the aging body; also, because of the simple fact that as the sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) increases in the body, the bioavailability of testosterone greatly diminishes.
The numbers do not lie when it comes to the study of LOH: the average loss of testosterone per year after 30 is around one to one and a half percent and then increases in speed as men grow older.
Andropause is A Group of Symptoms That Men Experience as Hormones Decrease
Most often when andropause develops, it is a combination of symptoms that manifest jointly in the body. This is simply because when testosterone diminishes in the male body, it is being gradually stripped of what it needs to maintain sexual health and therefore, it disrupts many systems, both mental and physical.
The symptoms of andropause can make a man feel as if he is being emasculated as his strength, sexual vigor, and health are slowly being reduced.
Andropause is Often Called “Male Menopause”
Andropause is called male menopause because it is the male version of the process in which productive and healthy sexual function starts to shut down in the body, although the male version is different in two ways: Sperm counts might not be as high, but in most men, they are still able to reproduce into their 70’s and 80’s whereas women cannot bear children after menopause. Additionally, male andropause is a much slower process that generally takes decades. Female menopause is much quicker in its shutdown process.
However, they are still the same in most ways. A woman’s reproductive system, mainly the uterus and the ovaries, slowly shuts down (menopause) due to the sudden diminishment of estrogen produced in the female body, resulting in reproductive abilities being permanently disabled in the woman. Likewise, the male body slows its testosterone production resulting in the reduced ability to obtain and maintain an erection and also make high levels of sperm.
Consequently, there is much more of a challenge in a man’s ability to easily and successfully reproduce. Now you can easily see why it is commonly known as male menopause.
What are the andropause symptoms?
Although symptoms vary in each individual, the ones below are the most commonly found among men that develop andropause, most of them having multiple symptoms:
- Lowered sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Lowered levels of mental and physical energy
- Loss of muscle mass
- Irritability and mood swings
- Hot flashes
- Decreased bone density
- Weight gain
Below is a brief description of these symptoms:
Having the proper amount of testosterone in the body not only gives a man his physical strength and sexual health, but it gives him adequate energy. When testosterone lowers, the male body is deprived of one of its main energy sources thus making it harder for the body to function optimally. This results in andropause-related fatigue.
Andropause highly affects a man’s state of mind. Not only is their sexual functioning diminishing but their energy levels and mental functioning are being affected as well. This can cause not only neurological changes but also spiritual discouragement.
A study done to compare depression and andropause showed that there were many commonalities between the two: dysphoria, increased anxiety, plummeting self-esteem, diminishment in sense of well-being, loss of motivation and productivity, difficulties with memory and concentration, and fatigue.
Increased Body fat
Testosterone helps the male body more easily maintain much of its lean muscle mass. Therefore, when testosterone levels start to fall, it is easier for men to gain fat versus muscle.
Also, the psychological effects of andropause can cause the body to store fat. This is due to higher levels of stress which stems from the anxiety and depression that often accompanies andropause.
Reduced muscle mass and weakness
Like stated above, lower testosterone levels result in a loss of lean muscle mass, which then takes away a man’s former strength causing more weakness. Also, weakness comes from the loss of energy, or fatigue, that many men experience with the onset of andropause.
Erectile dysfunction and infertility
Although it is well known that lower levels of testosterone can cause erectile dysfunction and a lowered sperm production, it is important to note that the psychological effects of andropause, like anxiety and depression, affect erectile functioning as well, due again to the stress it puts on the body.
Testosterone is what keeps a man’s sex drive healthy and at normal levels. When this hormone starts to diminish, it can drastically affect libido, making sex not as appealing as it once was to him.
When a man starts to lose his physical, mental, and sexual strength, it can heavily influence his sense of identity and well-being, whereas before, he had always relied on this strength to successfully and confidently fulfill his masculine role in society. This can often result in self-confidence issues.
Insomnia is caused by two main factors within the andropause condition. It is caused first of all, by lowered levels of testosterone, which disrupts melatonin levels and sleep algorithms. This testosterone drop along with deprivation of sleep can then either create or increase symptoms of depression and anxiety. The depression and anxiety, in turn, increases the insomnia problem.
Do Men Get Hot Flashes When They Have Andropause?
Male hot flashes due to andropause, while not one of the more common symptoms, nonetheless still happens in many men. It happens for the same reason that it happens in women going through menopause. The hypothalamus gets tricked by the extremely low levels of sex hormones and then reacts by sending signals to the blood vessels to widen; hence a male hot flash manifests.
Andropause Natural Treatment and Prevention Tips
There are prescription options to treat andropause. However, there are also natural ways to prevent or stop/slow down the progression of andropause. Below is information on both options:
The Normal Andropause Age of Onset is Between 40 and 60
Although andropause symptoms can start developing in a man’s thirties, most men who develop the condition do not start experiencing symptoms until they are in their 40’s or 50’s due to the natural regression of testosterone secretion over time.
Making Lifestyle Changes to Maintain Healthy Testosterone Levels
There are several ways to either improve or prevent andropause. Eating a healthy diet can do wonders. Hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, genetically modified foods (GMO), and trans fats can all disrupt healthy hormone functioning in the body; therefore, it is helpful to educate yourself on which brands and foods contain these harmful chemicals so as to avoid putting them into your body.
Also, adequate sleep is always a plus for not just preventing/treating a condition or illness, but for general health and well-being. Although it can be challenging to get enough sleep due to unavoidable hormonal changes, stress, and having a busy lifestyle, it is important to take note of what things in life can either be eliminated or cut down upon in order for you to lower stress levels for optimal rest.
Additionally, exercise is a great way to avoid or treat andropause. This is because it supports the body, helps with weight management, lowers stress, and balances hormones. Therefore, exercise can help discourage testosterone loss. Try finding an exercise, aerobic or anaerobic, that you like and can do most days of the week for at least 30 minutes to an hour.
Andropause Treatment Options That Require a Prescription
For some men, using a testosterone replacement therapy works well, whether it is used in conjunction with natural remedies or used alone. This comes in the form of gels, patches, injections, and pills.
If you do decide to try this route, make sure to talk with your doctor about which option is best for you.
Testosterone Gels, Patches, Injections, and Pills
The gels, patches, injections, and pills all give the body boosts in testosterone to treat symptoms of andropause and improve the condition. The gel, injection, and pill options give the body immediate boosts in testosterone while the patch gives a steady flow of the hormone throughout the day. They are all great options if your condition is getting worse rather than better.
Natural Andropause Supplements
Nature has provided some wonderful herbal remedies that can support you in lessening andropause symptoms and improving your quality of life:
DHEA is a natural steroid supplement that is a hormone precursor for both estrogen and testosterone. Therefore in men, it can increase testosterone levels naturally.
Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years to improve sexual functioning in the body and now is becoming increasingly popular for its ability in many men to increase testosterone levels and therefore improve ED symptoms and fertility.
Additionally, Ashwagandha helps to naturally manage emotions stemming from stress, namely anxiety, and depression.
Maca is another powerful herb that helps ease andropause symptoms. It not only helps to balance hormones, it also improves sexual function, fertility, and fights depression.
Although ginseng is mostly known in the male world for its great ability to improve erections and overall sexual functioning including sexual desire, evidence suggests that this herb could also help boost testosterone in men. However, more studies need to be done in order to solidify these claims.
Tongkat Ali, or Malaysian ginseng, is yet another revitalizing herb that naturally boosts testosterone levels and sexual performance.
Choosing the Solution That is Best For You
Whether you choose to treat your andropause symptoms naturally, talk with your doctor about a medication, or choose both options, it is crucial to know all the facts, talk with experts, and then start taking action to improve your symptoms. After all, the quality of your life and your health depend on it.