Andropause–the male menopause
As men reach their 40s, most will start noticing physical and emotional changes. Abdominal fat often takes the place of formally hard muscle, even with regular physical exercise. Eight hours of uninterrupted sleep are less frequent as nocturnal visits to the bathroom to urinate increase in frequency. The thick head of hair that once covered the head becomes gray and thinner. Every-other-night sex may turn into every-other-week sex as both interest and ability to perform decrease. And for men who are in touch with their inner feelings, they may notice that their zest for life has faded away with their libido and hairline.
Many physicians state that these changes in men are an inevitable part of “normal” aging. The idea that there is such a thing as andropause is still thought of as a myth by most mainstream medical doctors. They state that since men don’t have a physical signpost (such as the cessation of menstruation seen in women), andropause does not exist. However, even though women have a clear-cut physical demarcation in their lives, other changes of menopause take place over several years. In the case of andropause, it is thought that the majority of physical, mental and emotional changes take place over 10-to-15 years. These changes, which include declines in libido, sexual function, muscle mass and strength, increase in prostate size leading to benign prostatic hypertrophy, along with fatigue and depression, begin around age 40 for most men. It has been estimated by some researchers that today, as many as 25 million American men between 40 and 55 are experiencing signs and symptoms of andropause.
Testosterone–the key to andropause
In women, estrogen and progesterone are the two key hormones that decline during menopause. In men, it is the hormone testosterone that falls most in production as a man ages, and it’s thought that this fall is the single most important cause of andropause. Testosterone levels peak in a man at approximately age 30 and then begin a gradual decline. Some men have low testosterone by age 40. One reason that aging men are not diagnosed as being testosterone deficient is that blood test laboratory reference ranges are age-adjusted to reflect the anticipated reduction in testosterone production. So, when a doctor looks at an aging man’s free testosterone blood test result, he often sees it fitting neatly into the standard reference range for a normal aging man. The problem is that normal aging men are expected to have lower testosterone levels, which are far from optimal (youthful) ranges. The optimal testosterone level for most aging males are those of a healthy 21-to-30 year old. Testosterone is vitally important for its anabolic properties, including effects on cholesterol levels, protein breakdown, muscle mass and bone density, and its androgenic effects, including the development and maintenance of male secondary sex characteristics (deep voice, increase in facial and body hair, muscle development) and sexual functions such as libido and erection capability.
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