What is male menopause?
There is much debate about whether there really is such a thing as male menopause. Men, of course, do not have ovaries or a menstrual cycle like women do. There's no doubt, however, that many men do have symptoms similar to female menopause in later years.
Properly called andropause by the medical community that believes in its existence, up to 40 percent of middle-aged men in their 40s, 50s and 60s show at least some of the symptoms. As men age, male hormones (such as testosterone) gradually decline. Little research has been done so far concerning the exact causes, so they are as yet unknown. However, a few things that do seem to contribute are:
- Alcohol consumption
- Lack of exercise / obesity
- Poor nutrition
- High blood pressure / poor circulation
Like female menopause, men may become moody and irritable. They can suffer from hot flashes, sweating and depression. They may experience a decrease in libido, accompanied with impotence and infertility. They may have trouble obtaining or maintaining an erection. The testes may shrink somewhat, and often there is a loss of body and pubic hair.
At the same time, they may have a low red blood count (anemia) that results in fatigue and a general decrease in energy. They may have trouble keeping up with the physical demands of work, and can no longer engage in sports as they did when younger. Trouble sleeping, which is another common symptom, can also contribute to feeling fatigued.
Affected men may also have tender or swollen breasts, a loss of strength, a decrease in muscle bulk and trouble concentrating or with memory. Additionally, weight gain is common. These physical changes alone can be devastating to a man, without the hormonal changes to deal with as well.
So what is a man approaching middle age to do? While there seems to be no way to entirely prevent male menopause, there are some helpful treatments. Like women who take hormone replacements, testosterone replacement therapy is one possible option. However, there are some risks associated with this treatment, such as a higher risk of stroke, enlarged breasts, liver toxicity and even temporary sterility. Alternately, antidepressants or changes in diet and exercise may help some. There are also many natural herbal supplements that show promise in treating some or all symptoms relating to male menopause.
As each man is different, it is up to the individual to decide what, if any, kind of treatment might relieve his symptoms. He should do his own research and talk with his doctor to determine the best choices for him.
By Laureen Manera
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