Middle life crisis? It could just be andropause
Andropause is to men what menopause is to women. So men, next time you are tempted to sympathize with women going through menopause as they get older, be alert for andropause may one day happen to you. For married men whose wives are experiencing menopause, you may unknowingly be in the same boat.
Myth or fact? Is andropause real or is it a feminists’ way of getting back at men and trying to insist on biological equality? Andropause is as real as the sun rising every morning. It is a biological phenomenon that is brought
about by age. As we age, a lot of factories in the body begin to under function or shut down entirely. Andropause and menopause are a case of retirement of the sex hormones production.
The science of andropause While the term “male menopause” is misleading because the changes happen more gradually than it does in menopause, the common thread is that there is a reduction in the sex hormones/chemicals responsible for gender characteristics estrogen in women and testosterone in men. Starting around the age of 30 to 40 years, testosterone levels in men fall by about 2% every year. Because of the very slow rate of drop, it takes several years (often late 40s to early 50s) before testosterone drops below the lower limit of the normal range.
What physical changes should I look out for as a sign? There is a loss of muscle mass, strength and reduced ability to exercise. Remember Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone AKA Rambo? Google their photos and see the difference in their muscles in their prime years and today. Note that both men still exercise as much as their age allows though. Fat re-distribution. This simply means the body fat concentrates more in certain body parts than in others, while some parts experience loss of fat. Andropause causes gradual development of a large belly, known in Uganda as the beer belly. Be warned though that regular alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing a larger belly. Some men also develop “man boobs” (gynaecomastia) which may be accompanied by breast discomfort. Fat re-distribution is even more pronounced in men who were obese before. Decreased spontaneous erections or erectile dysfunction. Lack of knowledge unfortunately has led some wives to interpret it as their husband’s losing interest in them and some husbands attributing it to having the same partner for several years and as such, may try to start new relationships at this late stage often with disappointing results. Infertility. Some men will experience reduced or complete infertility.
Other physical symptoms include: height loss (becoming shorter), getting fractures from rather minor trauma (happens because of loss of calcium, a key ingredient for strong bones), hot flushes or sweats.
What do men in andropause feel? Changes in feeling are the most common symptoms experienced by men in andropause. They include: • Mood swings and irritability • A general lack of enthusiasm or energy • Decreased confidence • Sleep disturbances. Mainly, difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep (insomnia). Others experience increased sleepiness. • Increased tiredness • Poor concentration and short-term memory • Reduced sexual desire and activity
Should I be tested and treated for andropause? There is generally no need for testing. Testing involves checking the blood for testosterone levels. Doctors recommend the test in men who feel that the symptoms they are experiencing are interfering with their daily lives. It is not shameful to request for the test though. If your life is being interrupted by the experience, talk to your doctor. If the
symptoms are severe and interfering with your daily life, then your doctor may consider testosterone replacement therapy. This treatment is reserved for the severe cases because hormone replacement increases the risk for cancer. For most men, however, a healthy balanced diet and exercise works. If you have not previously been exercising, start small and gradually build up. Excessive strain on your body can lead to muscle tears, fractures and even heart attack. People with heart disease, lung disease, high blood pressure should consult their doctors about what the normal level of exercise is for them. Walking is always a good, low intensity and low risk daily exercise for everyone. Minimize junk food, alcohol and smoking. Some men may need counselling to work through the psychological effects of the changes. While you are at it, do not forget to have your prostate gland examined. You do not want to die from a preventable and curable cancer. Most importantly, is acceptance that it is a phase of life and a reason to celebrate that you have been blessed to live this long: In Uganda, you are one of less than 20% of the population. Above all, practice mindfulness and find joy in the everyday beauty of this life God has given you.
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