Andropause: The Facts About "Man-o-pause"
If you are a middle-aged man and have been experiencing symptoms like low libido, insomnia, problems maintaining an erection, and mood changes, or if you just seem to feel fatigued all the time and have a hard time concentrating, don't just chalk it up to old age; you may be going through andropause, also known as man-o-pause!
What is Andropause?
Andropause, also known as 'man-o-pause', is a hormonal change of life similar to menopause in women, during which your body's production of hormones like testosterone and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) begins to steadily decline, causing a myriad of undesirable symptoms. This phenomenon has been termed andropause because testosterone and DHEA are 'androgens', hormones responsible for manly characteristics like sperm production, a larger body frame, greater muscle mass, more body hair, and sex organ growth and development.
A decrease in your body's production of these hormones causes symptoms like increased flab (especially around your internal organs), decreased muscle mass and strength, lack of energy, loss of body hair, lower sex drive, and decreased bone density, just to name a few. Unlike menopause in women, andropause happens gradually and can actually begin as early as age 30, when testosterone starts its steady decline at a rate of about one percent per year. Your chances of going through andropause increase steadily the older you get, with up to 40% of men experiencing it by age 59, and up to 70% going through andropause by age 79. Although andropause usually lasts longer than menopause – sometimes up to 15 or 20 years - not every man is affected in the same way: some experience many symptoms, while others might notice just a few.
Who's At Risk for Andropause?
Although every man will likely go through andropause in his lifetime, certain individuals may experience more pronounced symptoms or begin noticing changes earlier than others. Smoking, alcohol consumption, poor diet, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, and prescription medications can worsen andropause symptoms. If you are frequently in contact with industrial chemicals, pesticides, or work in a laboratory that deals with chemicals of any type, you may also be more at risk for experiencing early andropause.
What Can You Do?
Although it's a normal part of the aging process for men, if you believe you are going through andropause, there are ways to minimize its effects and help your body and mind to better cope with the changes that are occurring.
Stay active: Not only is exercise relaxing for the mind and invigorating for the body, certain exercises like lifting heavier weights with lower reps can actually help boost testosterone levels. Exercise also helps keep your other systems healthy, providing great benefits for your cardiovascular system and your respiratory system.
Testosterone replacement therapy: Today, the natural process of andropause has been turned into a medical condition called Low T, which can be treated with the help of your doctor and testosterone replacement therapy. In testosterone replacement therapy, testosterone is administered either orally, trans-dermally (absorbed through the skin) or injected directly into the bloodstream. Although testosterone replacement therapy is effective, its long-term safety is unknown, and it has been linked to fertility issues, breast growth in men, liver toxicity (oral administration) and prostate enlargement. Testosterone replacement therapy can also produce negative side effects like nausea and vomiting, fluid retention, and skin changes like unwanted acne and skin discoloration.
Herbal Supplements: There are many herbal supplements on the market that may have a direct or indirect effect on testosterone levels, without the side effects associated with testosterone replacement therapy. Herbs like Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia), Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris), Maca (Lepidium peruvianum) and Yohimbe (Pausinystalia yohimbe) have all been shown in studies to help maintain healthy hormonal balance and positively affect testosterone levels, improving mood, libido, sexual stamina and overall energy levels.