When it comes to aging, women speak freely about menopausal mood swings, thinning hair, hot flashes, exhaustion, weight gain, etc. But women aren't the only ones who have to deal with hormonal changes as they age. Many men suffer from andropause -- frequently referred to as male menopause -- which occurs when their hormone production drops. Huff/Post50 spoke to Dr. David Borenstein, an integrative medicine doctor, about the reasons why there is less transparency about andropause.
1. The symptoms are easy to dismiss as something else.
Men suffering from andropause frequently experience erectile dysfunction, have a low sex drive, are fatigued a lot and may suffer depression. When they ejaculate, there may be a low volume of semen. Andropausal men may have outbursts of anger and sometimes appear to have poor spatial orientation or diminished intellectual capacity. Every one of those things could be a symptom of something else, says Borenstein. A simple blood test can determine testosterone levels, although it's not a slam dunk either. "Unlike blood level tests of glucose or cholesterol -- where there is a definite cut-off point between normal and abnormal -- the level of testosterone is wider and partially based on the patient's symptoms," Borenstein says. Still, the doctor's office is a place to start.
2. Men don't like to go to doctors.
Women go to doctors without hesitation. Men, not so much. It's akin to men being unwilling to ask for directions, says Borenstein. Many of his patients come in only because their partner pushes them to do so.
3. Testosterone replacement is seen as risky.
Testosterone replacement therapy has been linked to heart disease and prostate problems. Borenstein says many male patients are concerned about trading in one problem for another possibly larger one. But, he adds, in his opinion, "If testosterone replacement is done properly, it's safe." He adds, "You can't just give testosterone in a vacuum. There are byproducts that should be looked for and addressed."
Other experts emphasize that the benefits and risks of long-term testosterone therapy are unknown, because large clinical trials haven't yet been done.
4. Losing weight, exercising and dieting are hard.
A low-fat diet, losing weight and upping your exercise are all things known to help men with the symptoms of andropause. And yes, this is a hard pill for many to swallow. Borenstein advises patients to take zinc supplements, reduce stress, and limit or eliminate sugar from their diets. Eating healthy fats and cranking up their exercise also helps, he said. But first, see your doctor.
5. You can't fight the inevitable -- or can you?
Testosterone levels decline with age, beginning when a man is in his 30s. By age 80, they are only about 20 percent of what they were in youth. Researchers estimate that the condition affects anywhere from two to six million men in the United States. Yet it is an under-diagnosed problem, with only about 5 percent of those affected getting treatment. According to the Mayo Clinic's website, "testosterone therapy may sound like the ultimate anti-aging formula." But it adds, "The health benefits of testosterone therapy for age-related decline in testosterone aren't as clear as they may seem."
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