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Andropause: Understanding the signs of ‘male menopause’

 Andropause: Understanding the signs of ‘male menopause’

Although the term ‘male menopause’ has gained traction in recent years, men don’t menstruate, so they can’t experience the same hormonal shift in middle age as their female counterparts. That said, men still face hormonal change; it’s just much subtler.

From the age of 40, men experience a steady decline in the male sex hormone, testosterone; this is known as the andropause.

The andropause allegedly causes a range of psychological and physical symptoms. However, it’s not always easy to ascertain if these changes are the result of declining testosterone or midlife stressors, lifestyle habits, or even medication use.

Here, we uncover what the ‘male menopause’ has come to mean and how best to manage it.


What is ‘male menopause’?

The term ‘male menopause’ is misleading and unhelpful, it implies that men experience a similar hormonal transition as women in middle age. But this isn’t the case.

In menopause, the production of the female sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, drop suddenly. In men, however, there’s a more gradual and less drastic decline in testosterone.

Another disparity is that not every man experiences the ‘male menopause’, nor does it lead to the complete shut down of the male reproductive system. A healthy man may still be able to produce sperm into his 70s or later.

However, the steady decrease in male hormones that define the ‘male menopause’ can still create health implications which interfere with everyday wellbeing and happiness.


When does the ‘male menopause’ start?

For a man, after the age of 40, your testosterone levels decline at a rate of 1 per cent a year. You may experience subtle changes in the function of your testes as early as 45 to 50, and more dramatically after 70 years.

Despite this, most older men still exhibit normal testosterone levels, with only around 10 to 25 per cent reporting low levels. Many men don’t experience any symptoms from low levels of testosterone (1).


What are the signs of ‘male menopause’?

As a result of low testosterone, when you reach your late 40s and 50s, you may still develop a range of physical and emotional symptoms. These may include (2):

  • Loss of sex drive

  • Erectile dysfunction

  • Depression

  • Mood swings and irritability

  • Fat redistribution, such as developing a large stomach or ‘man boobs’

  • Insomnia or increased tiredness

  • Poor concentration and short-term memory loss

  • Loss of muscle mass

And yet, the signs and symptoms linked to low testosterone aren’t always specific to this gradual hormonal decline. What’s more likely is that medication use, ageing, other health conditions, and midlife stressors trigger these changes (3).

Personal or lifestyle issues, in particular, are often responsible for many of these symptoms. For instance, depression, stress, and anxiety are widely recognised as causing a loss of libido, mood swings, and erectile dysfunction.

Also, work or relationship issues, money problems, divorce, or worrying about ageing parents may also trigger some of the psychological issues associated with the ‘male menopause’.

Some men may even experience the psychological repercussions of a midlife crisis, in which they become preoccupied with their personal and professional milestones.

Besides this, a poor diet, lack of sleep, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, inactivity, and low self-esteem may further contribute to the ‘male menopause’.


What is andropause?

The term ‘male menopause’ has come to epitomise symptoms associated with declining testosterone levels. However, as we’ve established, men don’t experience the menopause, so some doctors refer to ‘male menopause’ as age-related androgen decline or andropause.

The andropause is often conflated with late-onset hypogonadism, which involves lowered testosterone levels and causes a similar group of symptoms. Crucially, though, hypogonadism isn’t caused by ageing; it’s a rare medical condition that requires a proper diagnosis.


How to manage your symptoms


Prioritise rest

If you experience mood-related symptoms, you need to support your emotional health. Ensure that you’re getting between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, as sleep is vital for emotional stability. Together, anxiety and sleeplessness exacerbate the effects of each other, perpetuating a negative feedback loop.

You may consider supplementing with Valerian root, which is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the temporary relief of sleep disturbances and mild anxiety.

Also, regular exercise, meditation, and deep breathing may also support the reduction of stress and anxiety at this time.


Eat a well-balanced diet

Eating a diverse, balanced, and mainly ‘whole food’ diet — rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and quality protein — is critically important for preserving muscle mass, supporting cardiovascular health, maintaining energy levels, and protecting emotional health as you age.

Maintaining an optimal weight will also support many areas of your wellbeing, including your sexual health.


Talk to your GP

One of the biggest obstacles in managing ‘male menopause’ is talking to a medical professional but, if your symptoms are severely disrupting your life then you should consult your doctor.

Although many men may find broaching sexual topics embarrassing and uncomfortable, your doctor is well-versed in this area and will put you at ease. It is common to experience a steady decline in your testosterone levels as you age.

In most cases, you can manage symptoms of the ‘male menopause’ with lifestyle and dietary changes. However, if you need further support then please consult your GP.

To learn more about the menopause, please visit the rest of our Menopause hub.



References:

  1. Mayo Clinic. 2020. Understanding Aging And Testosterone. Available online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/mens-health/in-depth/male-menopause/art-20048056

  2. nhs.uk. 2020. The 'Male Menopause'. Available online: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/male-menopause/

  3. nhs.uk. 2020. The 'Male Menopause'. Available online: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/male-menopause/


Disclaimer: The information presented by Nature's Best is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications.

 



 

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Our Author - Olivia Salter

Olivia

Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.

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