EXPLORING THE ANDROPAUSE AKA “MALE MENOPAUSE”
As part of our commitment at SAS to ensuring wellbeing for all staff covered by our services, our Lead Physiotherapist, Mike, has once again teamed up with our Lead PT, Ed, to tackle an issue that can potentially affect “men of certain age” (e.g. those of us who can remember Duran Duran first time round!)
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Watch Mike’s short intro to this blog here:
This time we are looking at the andropause or “male menopause” if you prefer, as it doesn’t appear to get the same press as other men’s health issues and, to be honest, us men have a reputation for not being very good at discussing these things – it’s certainly not something I’ve chatted about with my also 50 something friends over a post exercise pint or during a social event!
Is there such a thing as a ‘male menopause’?
The andropause is not a clearly defined process as seen in the female menopause.
The term can be misleading because it suggests the symptoms are solely the result of a sudden drop in the male hormones (mainly testosterone in middle age), similar to what occurs in the female menopause. This is not always true as the decline in hormone production for males is generally more gradual than in females.
Although testosterone levels fall as men age, the decline is steady at less than 2% a year from around the age of 30 to 40, and this is unlikely to cause significant problems just in itself.
Some men do however develop depression, loss of sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and other physical and emotional symptoms when they reach their late 40s to early 50s.
Symptoms common in men this age group are:
- mood swings and irritability.
- loss of muscle mass and reduced ability to exercise.
- fat redistribution, such as developing a large belly or “man boobs”.
- a general lack of enthusiasm or energy.
- difficulty sleeping or increased tiredness.
- poor concentration and short-term memory loss.
These symptoms can interfere with everyday life and happiness, so it’s important to find the underlying cause and work out what can be done to resolve it.
Personal or lifestyle issues
Lifestyle factors or psychological problems are often responsible for many of these symptoms.
There are also physical causes of erectile dysfunction, such as changes in the blood vessels, which may happen alongside any psychological cause.
Psychological ill-health is typically brought on by circumstances such as work or relationship issues, divorce, financial problems or worrying about home life issues.
A “midlife crisis” can also be responsible. This can happen when men think they have reached life’s halfway stage, becoming anxious over what they have accomplished so far and become overly reflective or fearful of one’s own mortality and can cause depression.
Other possible causes of the “male menopause” include:
- lack of sleep
- a poor diet
- lack of exercise
- drinking too much alcohol
- low self-esteem
In some cases, where lifestyle or psychological ill-health does not seem to be responsible, the symptoms of the “male menopause” may be the result of hypogonadism, where the testes produce few or no hormones.
Hypogonadism is sometimes present from birth, which can cause symptoms like delayed puberty and small testes.
This is known as late-onset hypogonadism and can cause the “male menopause” symptoms.
But this is an uncommon and specific medical condition that’s not a normal part of ageing.
A diagnosis of late-onset hypogonadism can usually be made based on your symptoms and the results of blood tests used to measure your testosterone levels.
What you can do
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, see your GP. They’ll ask about your work and personal life to see if your symptoms may be caused by a mental health condition, such as stress or anxiety.
If stress or anxiety are affecting you, you may benefit from medication or a talking therapy, such as counselling.
Benefits of exercise
We know that as we age, we naturally lose muscle mass and our metabolic rate slows down, so we are more likely to gain weight as fat is stored rather than burnt off.
Targeted exercises such as running or resistance training will increase your strength and slow the natural rate of muscle mass loss. Furthermore, exercise will also burn off stored fat and potentially boost testosterone levels. Improved cardiovascular fitness will lower blood pressure and boost your immune response.
Exercise is also a proven stress reliever and releases endorphins which is your body’s own, natural “feel good” hormone. So exercise will not only help with low mood or depression, but an improved level of fitness will boost any low feeling of esteem and has proven benefits in helping with depression.
Do I need Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)?
Your GP may also order a blood test to measure your testosterone levels.
Should the results suggest you have a testosterone deficiency, you may be referred to an endocrinologist – a specialist in hormone conditions.
If the specialist confirms this diagnosis, you may be offered testosterone replacement to correct the hormone deficiency, which should relieve your symptoms.
There are potential side effects to HRT and it is not suitable for everyone, e.g. men suffering with prostate cancer, so please always seek medical guidance.
Additional Support available from SAS
I would like to direct you to our Head Personal Trainer Ed’s Blog with further information on the positive benefits of exercise and his targeted exercise regimes for those key areas affected.
There is also access to our Counselling / Talking Therapy services and you can be referred to this by contacting our excellent Wellness Nurse team – firstname.lastname@example.org