Warning Signs of Male Menopause
Is male menopause a myth, or should you be worried? Some experts believe the condition is linked to depression, decreased libido, and insomnia in later years.
The Male (Menopause) Mystique
Want to experience serious information overload? Google “male menopause.” Within seconds, you’ll be faced with reams of advice, from acupuncturists, news outlets—even Dr. Oz.
As you dig deeper, you’ll learn that the condition is quite controversial. Health experts argue about every aspect of “male menopause:” what it is, what to call it, and even whether the condition exists at all.
So what is male menopause, anyway? If it does exist, how can you tell if you have it?
Click through the slideshow to learn more about male menopause—what it is, what it does, and how to recognize it.
What Is Male Menopause?
The term male menopause refers to the hormonal changes that some men experience as they get older. As men age, their testosterone levels tend to decrease.
A healthy man has a testosterone level of 300–1,200 ng/dL (nanograms per deciliter) (NIH, 2009). A man’s testosterone level usually peaks in his 20s. After age 30, the average man’s testosterone level declines 1 percent each year (Mayo Clinic, 2011). Thus, by age 70, a man’s testosterone level might reach 50 percent of his pre-“menopause” level (Mayo Clinic, 2011).
This shift can cause physical, emotional, and psychological changes.
Male Menopause vs. Female Menopause
So why the controversy? In truth, “male menopause” differs substantially from menopause.
Menopause happens suddenly; “male menopause” can take decades. While all women experience menopause, some men never experience “male menopause.”
Furthermore, men’s testosterone levels vary widely. Dr. Ciril Godec, chief urologist at Downstate Long Island College Hospital, notes that he has “seen someone in his 80s with [a testosterone level of] 600 ng/dL, and…someone in his 30s with [a level of] 150 ng/dL.”
Due to these differences, doctors prefer to call the male hormone shift andropause or androgen deficiency of the aging male.
What, Me Worry?
By any name, andropause—and the low testosterone (low T) that comes with it—is worrisome.
Researchers recently found that men with low T had a higher mortality rate than men with normal testosterone levels (Archives of Internal Medicine, 2006).
Furthermore, research suggests that many men don’t realize that they have low testosterone levels until they are diagnosed (Maturitas, 2002).
If you think you might be undergoing andropause or have low testosterone, you should consult with your doctor and find out for sure. Read on to learn more about the symptoms of andropause.
Testosterone plays a vital role in maintaining sex drive. Thus, men with andropause often notice decreased libido.
In fact, in a study of men undergoing andropause, researchers found that a staggering 91 percent of subjects exhibited decreased libido (Chang Gung Medical Journal, 2000).
Testosterone therapy has been found to improve libido. Baylor College researchers found that testosterone replacement—whether administered by patch, gel, or intramuscular injection—improved libido in men with low T (The Journal of Family Practice, 2007).
Dr. Godec notes that, “many men…in andropause go to psychiatrists” before they think to get their testosterone checked.
Testosterone helps regulate mood. Thus, when a man’s testosterone drops, he can become depressed. In a study of depressed males, researchers found that the lower a man’s testosterone level was, the more severe his depression (Biological Psychiatry, 1985).
Fortunately, researchers have found that testosterone replacement therapy can improve depression symptoms in men with low T—even if they have not responded to traditional antidepressants (Journal of Affective Disorders, 1998).
Testosterone helps your body maintain a healthy energy level. Therefore, men experiencing andropause often have low energy. For instance, they might fall asleep directly after a meal.
The good news? Researchers have found that testosterone replacement therapy can improve energy levels (Maturitas, 2002). In a study of male HIV patients, researchers found that testosterone proved even more effective than Prozac in treating patient fatigue (Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 2004).
While low energy and insomnia might seem like strange bedfellows, low T can cause both of these conditions.
Testosterone plays an important role in regulating sleep. Thus, patients with low testosterone often experience insomnia and disturbed sleep. Fortunately, Turkish researchers recently found that testosterone replacement therapy can help to prevent insomnia in men with low T (Psikiyatrike Guncel Yaklasimlar, 2010).
Testosterone helps your body to maintain bone density. Thus, if you are experiencing andropause, your bones may become more fragile. This can lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis.
In fact, the relationship between osteoporosis and testosterone is so well established that doctors sometimes order a bone density test in order to find out whether a patient has low testosterone.
In a classic chicken-and-egg situation, abdominal fat and low testosterone reinforce each other.
Testosterone helps to slow abdominal fat accumulation. In other words, if your testosterone level drops, you will accumulate more abdominal fat. As your abdominal fat increases, an enzyme in the fat tissue converts testosterone to estrogen, further lowering your testosterone level. With even less testosterone to slow the fat accumulation, abdominal fat increases.
Therefore, abdominal fat is both a cause and an effect of low testosterone.
Other Warning Signs
Other symptoms of andropause include:
- fewer spontaneous erections
- breast enlargement
- reduced endurance, tiredness
- decreased motivation and self-confidence
- difficulty remembering things and inability to concentrate
- increased irritability and nervousness
- reduced muscle size and strength
Men in andropause can also experience a lowered sperm count and a reduction in the proportion of red blood cells in their plasma. If you notice any of these signs and symptoms, visit your doctor right away.
Talk to Your Doctor
Since obesity and diabetes can contribute to low T, it’s important to take care of yourself. According to Dr. Godec, “a healthy lifestyle is the best guarantor that your testosterone will remain at a healthy level as you age.” Make sure to exercise and eat a healthy diet.
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, visit your doctor. They can determine whether you are undergoing andropause. With proper care and support, you’ll feel better in no time.