Andropause: A Turning Point for Men
Ever heard of male menopause? It’s very real, for some men more than others. Unlike menopause for women, not all men go through male menopause, also known as andropause. That’s why it’s not as well known. However, some men experience it in full, and it’s a very natural thing that a man shouldn’t be ashamed of. Our bodies change as we age, it’s that simple.
When women enter menopause, they typically experience a dramatic shift in many areas of their life, namely, their libido. With men who experience andropause, it’s more of a gradual lowering of testosterone levels and sex drive. In this article, we’re going to explore the ins and outs of andropause—its signs, symptoms, and solutions.
What is andropause?
To put it simply, andropause is the male version of menopause. For men, it’s the testosterone hormone that drops after a certain age, typically after the age of 50. Produced in the testes, testosterone is the hormone that’s responsible for so many things, including: sex drive, mental focus, mental optimism and motivation, and muscle mass. It also helps keep the fight or flight response working properly.
Unlike with menopause, men can still ejaculate and procure the species. In other words, they don’t experience the shut down of sexual organs like women do. Women experience menopause in a more extreme way. Their hormones drop dramatically in a short period of time. For men, the testosterone decline, as well as the decline of other hormones happens slowly, over a period of many years. It’s also referred to as late onset hypogonadism. The effects aren’t as apparent as they are for women. This is why andropause is so much more obscure than menopause, and oftentimes confusing. Let’s explore the topic a bit further, and see what we find out!
Common signs and symptoms of andropause
Here’s a checklist of the most common signs and symptoms for men experiencing the ill-effects of andropause:
- You feel depressed and down in the dumps more often than you used to
- Your self-confidence is lower than normal
- You have a hard time focusing on work and other tasks
- You lack energy and often feel fatigued
- You have sleep issues and perhaps even insomnia
- You’ve developed breasts
- You can’t seem to keep the extra fat off
- Your muscle mass is dropping
- You feel physically weak
- You’re more irritable than you used to be
- You may even have hot flashes
- You’re infertile
- You have a noticeable decrease in bone density
- You don’t have as many spontaneous erections
- You’re losing body hair
- Your breasts may become swollen
- You’re having a difficult time remembering things
- You have anemia
- You have heart palpitations
- You’re experiencing hot flushes and sweats
- You’ve lost height
Why do men get andropause?
Male menopause often goes unnoticed. Because andropause is caused by decreasing levels of testosterone, we need to look at why men lose testosterone as they age. Most men will lose around 1% of their testosterone each year, beginning around the age of 40. But, some men are going to lose more than that, due to other health conditions and issues. These men are more at risk for more severe symptoms of male menopause. Most older men however, are going to have relatively normal and healthy testosterone levels, even in older age.
Men who are obese, men who have diabetes, men who have been taking certain pharmaceutical drugs over a long period of time—these are the men who typically experience a greater loss of testosterone as they get older. High blood pressure and heart disease are two more risk factors for more severe andropause than your average male.
How can I check for andropause?
A simple blood test can detect falling testosterone levels. This is the easiest way to check for andropause. If you have some of the signs and symptoms above, and have an inkling you may be experiencing andropause, just ask your doctor for a blood test. Your doctor will likely check testosterone levels twice before confirming they’re in need of a boost. Your pituitary gland may also be checked to determine whether other hormones might also be out of whack.
If treatment is necessary, which typically comes in the way of testosterone replacement therapy, your doctor will tell you. However, testosterone replacement therapy may have dangerous side effects for some men, which primarily has to do with an increased risk for prostate cancer. This is something to consider, if your doctor encourages you to undergo the hormone replacement therapy. Your body is your body. And only you know what’s best for it.
However, it’s a good idea to rule out some of the diseases that have some of the same symptoms as andropause before deciding that male menopause is indeed the reason you’re feeling the way you do. Make sure your doctor rules out depression, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and cardiac issues. If you have none of these diseases, and display some of the aforementioned symptoms, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing andropause.
Is my erectile dysfunction due to andropause?
For the majority of men, an inability to become erect is psychological. Men, just like women, have a myriad of psychological issues surrounding their sexuality these days. Some men have had traumatic experiences with sex, to varying degrees, just like women. Popular culture puts so much pressure on men to look a certain way and have sex in a certain way, just as it has done for women. The stresses of modern day life also puts a damper on libido for both sexes.
It’s natural for men to lose sex drive gradually over the years. But, if you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction more often than not, there’s a good possibility your issues are psychological in nature. The other reason men get ED has to do with pharmaceutical meds. For example, those taking medications for high blood pressure, or diabetes, are prime candidates for loss of erection. Talk to your doctor about it. Talk to a friend you trust. This is an issue for more men than you might think. And you’re definitely not alone.
Increase testosterone levels the natural way
For the male experiencing andropause that doesn’t want to take pharmaceutical medications or testosterone replacement therapy, natural solutions exist to combat the many signs and symptoms linked to andropause.
Up your exercise game
Exercising is the most important thing men can do to boost testosterone levels, and many studies show how and why. Taking your fitness routine to the next level is probably the single most important thing you can do if your testosterone levels need a healthy and natural boost.
This study, published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, shows how for men who are obese, committing to a regular exercise routine—even moreso than making positive dietary changes—is the most effective way to boost testosterone.
Aerobic exercise is necessary for the production of those feel good hormones (endorphins) which need a boost in men experiencing andropause. You may also need to up your exercise game in order to enjoy your days. Long bicycle rides, long swims, long walks—these are all ways to get those feel good chemicals released to combat the depression and low moods that often accompany male menopause.
Many studies show that high intensity interval training (HIIT) and burst training are really effective in boosting testosterone. Studies like this one, published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, this one—published in the Journal of Endocrinology Investigation, and this one, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, all point to the positive effects of high intensity interval type exercise on testosterone deficiency.
Build your muscles
Strength training will increase blood flow to the heart, and build the muscle mass that sometimes loses its integrity with age. Many studies show that lifting weights and boosting muscle mass leads to a healthy increase in testosterone. This one, published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, as well as this one, published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, are two such studies that focus on the efficacy of weight training for healthy testosterone (and other hormone) levels.
Try integrating a strength training regimen to your workout if you haven’t already. This might include lifting weights, practicing Pilates and yoga, doing calisthenics, using a resistance band, or experimenting with a kettlebell workout. And to really up your game, try taking caffeine and creatine monohydrate in the form of a supplement to your training program. Many studies like this one, published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, as well as this one, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, show how this combo effectively increases testosterone. Little hacks such as these might be exactly what you need.
Learn how to manage stress
When we’re chronically stressed out, the stress hormone known as cortisol becomes elevated—to a point that disrupts the delicate balance of other hormones, including testosterone. In fact, you can think of the relationship between cortisol and testosterone like a see-saw. When cortisol levels go up, testosterone levels plummet. And studies like this one, published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, explain how and why this is the case. Check it out if you’re interested in the science.
Learn ways to manage stress in a healthy way. Go easy on the drinks and tobacco use.
Even young studs need to watch their intake of wine, spirits, and tobacco if they want to hold an erection. Older men need to do this to an even greater degree—especially those experiencing erectile dysfunction. Many women and men nowadays enjoy yoga and meditation. These are my go-to stress-relieving practices. With so many teachers and styles of yoga and meditation to choose from, there really is something for everybody.
Essential oils like lavender and marjoram are immediately stress-relieving in nature. I love to inhale these intoxicating scents throughout the day, and especially at night before bedtime. And as you probably know through experience, just the right amount of exercise also alleviates long-term stress. So, elevate your fitness routine if you need to chill out.
Yet another powerful stress-relieving technique has to do with your breath. The ancient yogis learned that you could control your body and mind by becoming a master of your breath. This is a topic for an entire article, which we’ll explore further in the future. For now, I encourage you to practice what I like to call ‘breathing through a straw.”
All you’re going to do is take a long inhale through the nose. On a deliberately slow exhale, you’ll breathe out of your mouth while puckering your lips into a tight circle, as if you were pushing the air out through a straw. Make the breath really audible. I like to hear it, as I feel this makes me more aware and helps me elongate both the inhalation, as well as the exhalation. Do as many cycles as you need to calm your nervous system. Practice this even when you’re not feeling stressed, to get the hang of it and make it a go-to habit for the times when you are stressed out.
Supplement with zinc
For male athletes who want to boost testosterone as they get older, taking a daily zinc supplement could be helpful. Studies like this one, published in the journal NeuroEndocrinology Letters, provide promising evidence for zinc supplementation as a testosterone booster for male athletes. Male athletes often experience exhaustion, which lowers testosterone, as well as thyroid hormones. You may be in the best of shape, but lack the testosterone you need for a healthy libido and drive. Give zinc supplementation a shot. It certainly can’t hurt!
I hope you all have a better grasp on what’s known as male menopause. It’s a tricky subject to navigate, but with a little support and some healthy lifestyle changes, the ill-effects of low testosterone can be managed in a healthy way!