Are You Going Through The Andropause Blues?
Andropause; it will not be surprising if many of you are alien to this word. Most of you must have come across the word for the first time. Isn't it? Well if you ask for a definition of the word, Andropause refers to what we commonly call male menopause.
Male menopause or technically speaking Andropause becomes quite difficult to diagnose as there are no apparent signs as in the case of female menopause. Female menopause is caused due to the decrease in the estrogen levels and because of this decrease a woman stops menstruating. So is the case with male menopause. Andropause sets in due to shortage of testosterone levels in the body in spite of the fact that the testicles continue producing it along with the sperms. Now you might want to know that if there is no change in the sperm production then why so much fuss is created in case of Andropause.
Well one of the major problems with Andropause is that it can cause certain sexual dilemmas namely:
- reduced libido
- reduced potency
- premature ejaculation
- weak erection
- incomplete orgasm
The problems don't end here Andropause is also accompanied by other problems such as:
- aches and pains
It is very important to immediately consult a doctor if you are going through this phase. Andropause can lead to serious consequences if left untreated. Apart from these physical disorders, Andropause can also wreck your personal life due to the sexual problems mentioned above and they can only be realized by those who go through it.
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Andropause, more than a mid-life crisis
Often dismissed as a mid-life crisis, the physical and emotional changes many men experience as they age are known as Andropause, or male menopause. First described in 1944, Andropause was the subject of an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. (1) Since then, some medical professionals have recognized the existence of the condition and the profound effect it can have on men.
Although not a new condition, Andropause has recently been gaining more attention from the medical community. There are still conflicting opinions about the validity of Andropause for several reasons, including the reluctance of men to acknowledge sexual changes and male aversion to seeking medical care. In fact, men are half as likely as women to get regular checkups. (2) Because of this opposition, Andropause has been neglected as an actual medical condition.
Andropause refers to the condition which occurs with the natural decrease of androgen hormones, including androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone, and testosterone. Frequently referred to as male hormones, androgens are found in both sexes.
As its effects are gradual by nature, Andropause is not as easily recognizable as its female counterpart - Menopause; as many as 25 million American men may experience some andropausal symptoms (3). Caused by normal declining testosterone levels associated with aging, it is estimated Andropause seriously affects 30 per cent of men between the ages of 40 and 55. (4)
In fact, a study in the 2005 Annual Review of Medicine found
approximately 30 percent of men 60 to 70 years of age and 70 percent of men 70 to 80 years of age have low bioavailable or free testosterone levels. (5)
It is thought that starting at about age 20, testosterone levels gradually decrease by about 1.6 per cent every year. As they age, a decline in testosterone levels will occur in virtually all men, however there is no way of knowing who will experience andropausal symptoms serious enough to need medical help.
Although individual symptoms may vary widely, the most common are the following (6):
- Memory loss
- Poor concentration
- Loss of energy
- Decreased sex drive
- Decreased strength and physical agility
- Weight gain
Testosterone – the male sex hormone
Testosterone is the hormone responsible for normal growth and development of male sex and reproductive organs, including the penis, testicles, scrotum, prostate, and seminal vesicles. It also enables the development of secondary male sex characteristics such as musculature, bone mass, fat distribution, hair patterns, laryngeal enlargement, and vocal chord thickening. Additionally, normal testosterone levels maintain energy level, healthy mood, fertility, and sexual desire.
The only way to diagnose Andropause is through a blood, saliva or urine test that measures bioavailable testosterone. It is also important to check the levels of hormones such as estradiol, thryroid, progesterone that interact with testosterone. The best time for these tests is in the morning, because testosterone peaks at that time.
Treatments for Andropause
Hormone Replacement Therapy is an option for some men, but as with all medical treatments, this should be discussed with a physician. There are also natural options that may improve andropausal symptoms. For men with milder symptoms, simple changes to diet, vitamins, daily exercise and the addition of herbal supplements might be an option.
- A healthy diet rich in whole foods is crucial to maintaining good hormone balance and overall health. Foods that are high in vitamin E include wheat germ, leafy green vegetables, and whole grains. Good sources of zinc include pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, peas, meat, and seafood. Watercress leaves and sesame seeds are also known to be libido enhancers, so men should consider including these as part of a balanced diet.
- Foods that impair hormone balance include harmful fats such as those found in margarine and refined vegetable oils. Packaged foods containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats and refined sugar can also affect hormone levels.
- Pesticides and herbicides may have estrogen-like effects on the body along with dairy and meat products which may also have hormonal residues that disrupt normal hormonal biochemistry.
- A multivitamin will provide a strong base of nutrients and zinc supplements to help support normal testosterone production and prevent estrogen excess. Vitamin B complex can combat stress, which is known to cause fatigue, depression, and memory loss.
The Chinese have long believed Panax ginseng improved libido and sexual function. A study reported in 1995 in the International Journal of Impotence Research found that Panax ginseng significantly improved sexual function. (7) It has also been shown to improve sperm count and motility.
Ginkgo biloba is also thought to improve blood flow and could help treat impotence.
Exercise your way to a better life
Daily exercise is one of the keys to improving mood, libido and sexual function. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, most people should try to exercise four to six times a week for 30 to 60 minutes each time.
Unfortunately, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about half of men over 65 and almost 40 per cent of men between the ages of 45 and 64 do not make exercise a part of their daily lives. (8)
Ways to incorporate exercise into your life
- Daily walk with a pet or friend
- Take stairs instead of elevator
- Walk to run errands such as grocery store, bank, coffee shop
- Join lunch hour fitness classes or walk with co-workers
- Yoga relieves stress and promotes muscle strength
…and, yes, although unfortunate for some – yard work and housework is a good way to exercise!Sources (1) http://www.seekwellness.com/andropause/ (2) www.cdc.gov (3) http://health.discovery.com/centers/mens/articles/andropause.html (4) www.andropause.com (5) Alive: Canadian Journal of Health & Nutrition; Jun2005 Issue 272, p40-43, 3p (6) Men and Depression. Understanding Depression, 1/1/2002, p16, 1p (7) H. K. Choi, et al., "Clinical Efficacy of Korean Red Ginseng for Erectile Dysfunction," International Journal of Impotence Research, 7(3), September 1995, p.181-186. (8) ftp://ftp.cdc.gov/pub/Health_Statistics/NCHS/Publications/Health_US/hus04figures/Fig15.xls