Women’s feelings and behavior are often discounted as the product of hormonal changes like periods and menopause. Well, guess what, guys: your hormones change too.
“Manopause” and “andropause” refer to the gradual but substantial decrease in men’s testosterone. Eventually the level of the male hormone drops to just one-half what it was when the man was around age 30.
Men: to get an idea of what might be in store, think back to puberty. It’s like that but in reverse, according to “Male Menopause” and “Surviving Male Menopause” author Jed Diamond, who describes changes that are “hormonal, psychological, interpersonal, social, sexual and spiritual.”
Diamond isn’t kidding about the breadth of male menopause’s effects. All of these changes are possible:
- insomnia and disturbed sleep
- erectile dysfunction
- reduced sexual desire
- fewer spontaneous erections
- increased body fat
- reduced muscle bulk
- reduced strength
- reduced endurance
- decreased motivation
- decreased self-confidence
- memory problems
- difficulty concentrating
That is a lot of serious changes, so I’ll concede that maybe, on occasion, feelings and behavior are related to hormonal changes — but that applies to men as well as women.
I would also like to claim vindication here for every woman who ever said her weight gain was a result of menopause, not changed eating or exercise habits. Men on the downward testosterone escalator may expect “increased body fat” as well.
There is controversy over what to call this phenomenon in men. Because it is a gradual change and not a defined period like menopause in women, some doctors call it “androgen decline,” WebMD reports. This difference matters beyond semantics: it means the effects of decreased male hormones “tend to be subtle and might go unnoticed for years.”
There are a number of diagnostic tools to identify declining testosterone. A doctor who suspects it should:
- perform a physical exam
- ask the patient about symptoms
- order tests to rule out other medical problems that may be contributing to the condition
- order blood tests, which may include measuring testosterone level
The Mayo Clinic offers advice to men who believe they may be suffering from decreased testosterone.
- Be honest with your doctor. Work with your doctor to identify and treat any health issues that might be causing or contributing to your signs and symptoms — from medication side effects to erectile dysfunction and other sexual issues.
- Make healthy lifestyle choices. Eat a healthy diet and include physical activity in your daily routine. Healthy lifestyle choices will help you maintain your strength, energy and lean muscle mass. Regular physical activity can even improve your mood and promote better sleep. Meditating can also help.
- Seek help if you feel down. Depression in men doesn’t always mean having the blues. You might have depression if you feel irritable, isolated and withdrawn. Other signs of depression common in men include working excessively, drinking too much alcohol, using illicit drugs or seeking thrills from risky activities.
- Be wary of herbal supplements. Herbal supplements haven’t been proved safe and effective for aging-related low testosterone. Some supplements might even be dangerous. Long-term use of DHEA, for example, has no proven benefits and might increase the risk of prostate cancer.
- Discuss the pros and cons of testosterone replacement therapy. It doesn’t work for everyone, and it can cause dangerous side effects, including a higher risk of prostate cancer, when used for a long time.
It wouldn’t be fair to stop taking men of a certain age seriously because their hormones are changing, but then again, all’s fair in love and the gender war. The ball is in their court: if they stop patronizing women about “their time of the month” and “the change,” I won’t start patronizing them. Probably.
Photo credit: Thinkstock/Diego Cervo