Most people associate menopause with hot flashes and mood swings in women. So is it possible for hormonal changes — and the accompanying symptoms — to start happening in men as they age? Is male menopause a real medical issue?
“The symptoms of male menopause, or andropause, are very real for many men,” says Raneth Heng, MD, an integrative medicine specialist at Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine. “Starting at around the age of 40, men start to lose about one percent of their testosterone per year. This decline is related to loss of lean muscle mass and increasing inflammation. Chronic stress is a leading cause of inflammation.”
This gradual decrease in hormones is often referred to as “male menopause” because it produces many of the same symptoms as female menopause: irritability, abdominal weight gain, decreased sexual desire and function, sleep disturbances, sadness, fatigue, loss of strength and even hot flashes.
“These midlife changes are often more subtle in men than in women,” says Dr. Heng. “That’s because women experience a complete shutdown of ovarian hormone production at menopause versus the slow decline in testosterone in men.”
The most uniquely male symptom, erectile dysfunction (ED), is perhaps the most misunderstood. ED and male menopause are not mutually exclusive. The causes of ED and andropause can share common triggers — such as inflammation — and can be similarly treated with testosterone replacement therapy.
The changes men experience at midlife are often viewed as the natural consequence of aging, making it difficult to diagnose. Blood tests that measure testosterone levels are helpful but inconclusive, and there is no specific medical diagnosis for male menopause at this time.
Even without a way to directly diagnose it, no one disputes that the symptoms of male menopause are very real and compromise the quality of life for millions of men.
“There is no reason to settle for mediocrity as you age,” adds Dr. Heng. “I encourage every man to ask his doctor about ways to manage stress, optimize health and enjoy life to its fullest.”
There are multiple, noninvasive therapies, stress management techniques and lifestyle change programs that can help men manage their symptoms. These include meditation, hypnosis, biofeedback, mindfulness-based stress reduction, nutrition and fitness programs, natural supplements and yoga classes.
There are so many things men can do at home as well. Good health is not just about eating right and getting exercise. It’s just as important to have a good laugh, enjoy some alone time and connect with friends. Having sex is also good for your mind and body because it relieves stress and helps to keep your prostate healthy.
“Women have known for years that success at midlife is not a measurement of hormones but of quality of life,” says Dr. Heng. “It’s encouraging to see more men taking steps to recapture their health and happiness at midlife as well.”
Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine offers noninvasive therapies, stress management techniques and lifestyle change programs to help men manage their symptoms.