Understanding male menopause and mental health- Part 1

You’ve probably heard of the menopause in women, but did you know men go through a similar hormonal change as they age? The male menopause, or andropause, is often triggered when men reach their 40s.

In fact, as many as 30% of men can expect some sort of physical change to their bodies when they reach this age. But with such little exposure to information, this sudden shift in mental attitude and physical ability can come as a real shock.

In this guide, we’ll discuss all aspects of the male menopause. From spotting the early signs, to finding out what you can do to alleviate the symptoms, find out what you can do to tackle the challenges of the andropause.

Understanding the male menopause

What is the male menopause?

The male menopause is the name given to an age-related change in the hormone levels of men. There are several factors which could cause a person to enter this stage of their life.

Some of the most common include:

  • Testosterone deficiency
  • Increasing SHBG levels
  • Reduced pituitary function
  • Reduced production of testosterone by the testicles
  • Increasing insulin resistance/onset of diabetes

In all of these cases, it’s the dramatic reduction in the amount of testosterone the body produces which causes the menopause to kick in. While these factors won’t affect everyone as they age, it can have a huge impact on individuals who do see a dip in production.

The impact of testosterone on a man

Testosterone is a hormone which has been closely associated with the concept of being “manly” for decades. And while things are a little less black and white than that, it’s certainly true that the amount a man produces will have a direct impact on his behaviour and physical and mental health.

There are a host of areas which are controlled by the amount of testosterone in your body. Those include:

  • Heart:Testosterone increases your cardiac output, while also helping to keep the coronary and peripheral blood flow smooth and continuous.
  • Brain:Cognition, memory and feeling are all affected by testosterone in the brain, as well as a man’s sex drive.
  • Kidneys:Red blood cell production decreases when there’s less testosterone in your system. This happens because erythropoietin production is halted or reduced.
  • Muscles:The mass and strength of your muscles are directly impacted by the amount of testosterone in your body.
  • Sexual Organs:Sperm production and prostate health are both directly affected by a lack of testosterone. Erectile dysfunction is also not uncommon.

With so many parts of the male anatomy affected by Testosterone, it’s not hard to see why some people see the male menopause as a genuine threat for their later years.

Male menopause – fact or fiction?

“Male menopause” is commonly used as a title because it affects men as they age, and has similar symptoms to the female menopause. But is it the same?

In truth, not quite. The term is something of a misleading tagline. While there is a very real change which happens to some men at a certain point in their life, the name itself encompasses a lot of different conditions.

The one key link between them all? A large dip in that all-important testosterone. While some people see the term as a simple way of describing the loss of this hormone, others would suggest that inaccurately grouping these conditions under one umbrella is a risky practice.

The minor controversy over the name stems from the fact that this, unlike female menopause, is not something which all men will naturally experience in their lives.

It’s very common for a man’s testosterone levels to decrease by as much as 1% every year after the age of 40. This is not the same as late-onset hypogonadism or androgen deficiency, which can see a much larger sudden dip in levels.

It’s for this reason some medical professionals like to steer clear of the term “male menopause” altogether. It’s natural for testosterone levels to lower, but extreme cases are a condition in and of themselves.

So, is the male menopause real? Well, yes and no. While you won’t definitely experience this drastic shift in hormone levels, there’s roughly a one-in-three chance you could. Just don’t take the slightest change in levels when you’re 50 to mean you’re going through “the change”.

Differences between male and female menopauses

There are a lot of similarities between male and female menopauses. In fact, as we’ve discussed, these shared attributes are responsible for the origin of the name.

Ultimately though, there are a number of key differences between men and women:

  • Rate of change:Women often find changes to their body happen overnight. And while the overall process of menopause will last for years, the beginning of the process is very easy to spot. With men, it’s usually more of a gradual thing, as testosterone production begins to gradually slow down.
  • Reproductive capabilities:When a woman goes through menopause, she’ll no longer be able to have children. While sexual libido is likely to drop in men, it won’t always mean they won’t still be able to father a child.
  • The guaranteed nature:As we’ve already alluded to, not all men will go through male menopause. While everyone will naturally see testosterone levels decrease over time, only 30% experience the rapid drop-off associated with the condition. Meanwhile, all women experience a menopause.

While the two are comparable, it would be wrong to suggest they’re totally alike. As we’re about to discover, the changes that occur in men are sometimes quite different.

Published by permission: Here

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