What is the andropause?
Andropause is a normal part of aging for men, who see a gradual decline in testosterone levels, but there are ways to manage the andropause and maintain wellbeing and vitality.
Andropause, the medical name for the male menopause, is now recognized as a genuine condition by many health professionals worldwide.
Unlike menopause in women, where hormone levels drop quite quickly over a short period of time, andropause occurs over a number of years, or even decades.
Testosterone levels reduce at a rate of around one per cent each year from the mid-thirties, causing gradual changes in the body. These include a loss of muscle mass and bone density, decreased sex drive, loss of vitality, a decline in agility, and changes in mood and attitude. The reduction in testosterone levels can also contribute to health problems such as heart disease.
Due to the slow rate at which the andropause develops and the general nature of some of the symptoms, these physical and mental changes may not always be recognized as being a result of hormonal changes.
Take note of any symptoms you have, such as low libido, long-term unexplainable fatigue or a reduced feeling of wellbeing. If these cause concern, get checked out; don’t assume it’s something you have to put up with because you’re getting older.
There are screening questionnaires available that can give you an indication of testosterone levels. You can either do one of these surveys and then speak to your doctor if your score is low, or make your doctor the first port of call.
You can measure testosterone levels with a blood test, and there are medications and lifestyle changes that can help to manage the andropause.
Treatments to help manage the andropause
Once your doctor has determined that low testosterone levels may be impacting your life, they may prescribe testosterone therapy to help manage the andropause. There are several treatment options available. The best formulation will depend on the amount of testosterone you need to reduce symptoms and restore vitality. Options include:
- capsules (Andriol)
- patches (Androderm)
- gel (Testogel)
- injections that act for a short period of time, administered every 1-3 weeks (Sustanon)
- ‘depot injections’, administered 4-6 monthly (Renadron)
- testosterone pellet implants containing plant-based testosterone
Benefits and risks of testosterone therapy
As with any form of treatment, testosterone therapy has a number of benefits and risks.
Potential benefits include:
- An improvement in energy levels, strength, mood and general wellbeing.
- An increase in libido and arousal, the ability to engage in sexual activity and reach orgasm more frequently, as well as greater sexual satisfaction.
- A decreased risk of fracture due to loss of bone and muscle strength slowing down.
- A small reduction in the risk of diabetes, heart attack and stroke.
- The risk of cognitive decline and dementia dropping slightly.
Risks associated with testosterone therapy:
- Side effects may include acne, weight gain due to an increase in muscle, and changes in mood (including increased levels of aggression at high doses).
- Some prostate cancers may be sensitive to testosterone. Men taking testosterone supplements should have regular prostate cancer screenings.
Lifestyle changes to help manage the andropause
Testosterone supplementation isn’t the only way to manage the andropause. Lifestyle changes can also help. Try:
- Increasing your physical activity – Even going for a walk each day can help in maintaining a healthy weight, which can assist in slowing the decline in testosterone levels, as well as preventing the onset of diabetes.
- Taking up weight training – Find a personal trainer, or enrol in regular classes at your local gym.
- Starting a stretching program – Get some advice from a trainer or health professional, or buy a book that teaches you how to develop your own program.
- Getting enough quality sleep – Inadequate sleep can decrease testosterone levels and can also make the symptoms of low levels worse.
- Managing stress – Yoga, meditation, rhythmic breathing or other relaxation techniques are a great way to de-stress.
- Stopping smoking – Even second-hand smoke can cause a reduction in testosterone levels.