When women go through menopause, it’s characterized by the time in life when the woman stops having a menstrual period. Therefore, menopause is somewhat predictable and there’s an end in sight.
Men, on the other hand, may go through a time in life that is not as well defined. Otherwise known as andropause, it’s a process associated with a declining rate of testosterone levels that varies among the male population. Unlike menopause, andropause is quite unpredictable because there are an array of symptoms, and there is no end in sight – it lasts for rest of a man’s life. Also, while women will experience post-menopause, there is no post-andropause.
Most commonly, declining testosterone levels are associated with a lower libido and erectile dysfunction. However, insufficient testosterone in men can contribute to a number of male health issues, not just those related to sexual health.
Ryan Smith, M.D., of Better Life Carolinas, said that testosterone levels begin to decline at a rate of about .5% to 1% starting at around age 30. The rate of decline is different for every man, but Dr. Smith mentioned that some studies have shown an 85% decline of testosterone levels in men between the ages of 40 and 70.
“It basically starts to decline in men at around age 30, but it is an insidious decline, and it can also affect men differently,” he added.
Dr. Smith explained that lower testosterone levels affect men in many different ways.
For example, testosterone helps regulate body composition and lower levels are associated with decreased energy. Testosterone can also regulate metabolism and red blood cells.
Higher testosterone levels can contribute to a better immune system. Dr. Smith also noted that lower levels can affect mood and decrease memory function, since testosterone is related to overall cognitive skills.
“The cognitive effects of lower testosterone levels mean increased anxiety, stress and irritability,” Dr. Smith said, adding that this condition also contributes to memory loss and poor concentration.
Physically, lower testosterone is associated with an increase in fatigue and weight gain. Dr. Smith also explained that studies have shown that lower testosterone has been shown to cause a decline in overall job performance.
Every woman experiences menopause, but not every man will go through andropause. Dr. Smith said some men are well into their 80s with average or above average levels of testosterone. On the other hand, there could be men who begin experiencing a decline in their 20s.
“Unfortunately, there have been more studies in recent years that have shown that men are experiencing andropause at younger and younger ages – some of them even at age 15, and it goes up to age 39,” he commented.
Dr. Smith admitted that no one knows why testosterone levels decrease, but that there is speculation in the medical community that it could be related to obesity and comorbidities related to obesity, such as diabetes.
He also mentioned that this issue could be related to environmental exposures like the chemicals in plastic or cooking ware. He said there is speculation that it could be related to radiation levels from cellphones as well.
“It’s a multifaceted issue, of course, and it could be related to many things,” he said. “There needs to be more studies done on the issue, but obesity definitely plays a major role.”
Dr. Smith said the first step in treating low testosterone levels is recognizing the problem.
“It may come as a surprise, but, with most men, once they start talking about the issue with their doctor, they feel comfortable talking about it. I think it is just starting that initial conversation. Most men don’t even realize it is happening to them,” he said.
There are medications that can boost the signals to generate more testosterone, and there also is testosterone replacement therapy. Dr. Smith said that there isn’t a “cookie cutter” way of treating a drop in testosterone.
“It’s different for every man, based on dosage estimates and the level of decline in testosterone that the individual man is suffering from,” he said.
Dr. Smith noted that there has been resistance in the medical community to treat andropause due to safety concerns.
“Many doctors believe that testosterone replacement therapy could lead to prostate cancer, but there have been no studies done to indicate that. Conversely, there have been studies that show that decreased levels of testosterone can lead to prostate cancer.”
Lifestyle issues might also play a role in decreased levels of testosterone. Dr. Smith advised that men should make sure they get a good night’s sleep because testosterone is released at night during REM sleep.
“Four to five hours isn’t going to be adequate for REM sleep,” he added.
Finally, Dr. Smith reiterated that “Diet plays a role and stress can play a role as well.”
He suggested weight lifting to boost testosterone levels.
“In the end, if you are a male in your 20s and 30s, you need to be getting a good night’s sleep, have a clean diet, practice stress reduction and start a weight training routine,” Dr. Smith concluded.
For more information on andropause or to get in touch with Dr. Smith, visit betterlifecarolinas.com.
By Theresa Stratford