GET TO KNOW YOUR HEALTH: Andropause

Andropause

Anything you can do, I can do better……well almost.

One of the most talked about, well known, widely marketed, and often just plain obvious events in the human condition is the female menopause.  So it’s unsurprising that everyone knows of its existence, and even to varying degrees what to expect.  But guess what?  Men go through it too!

Now before some of you guys try to take this article to your better half and use it to exonerate yourselves, keep reading.  I didn’t mean that you suffer through her menopause, I mean that you are probably already right in the middle of your very own.  When it comes to this aging and hormone thing, it’s said that women will (metaphorically) fall off a cliff; while when it comes to men there’s no cliff, only a hill that we just roll all the way down.  While I’m not sure that this joint venture is a good or bad thing, either way the result is pretty much the same in the end.

This condition has lots of names from the official; Androgen Deficiency of the Aging Male “ADAM” / Testosterone Deficiency.  To the common; Andropause / Low-T.  My personal favourite that I’ve come across though, is entertaining; Man-o-pause.  The only name that really matters though, is the one you are comfortable with.  This condition remains hugely under reported/diagnosed which is often due to us men being too embarrassed (no, we will never admit it!), ashamed, uncommunicative, unfussed or just plain lazy.

Testosterone (T) levels peak somewhere in our 20’s, but it’s all downhill from there as they then start to undergo a progressive decline of 1-2% per year for the rest of our life.  This leads to the levels in an otherwise healthy 75-year-old male being about half of those seen in a man at the age of 20.  Once T levels drop low enough, production of two testosterone stimulating hormones will begin like crazy to try to bring the levels of T back up again.  It works too…..for a while, as this is like trying to whip a horse like crazy to go faster, it’s quite effective…until it’s dead.  So after this brief galloping intermission, T levels will again start to decline.  This shift in hormonal pattern occurs in all men at some point.  Lastly, those T stimulating hormones don’t just give up, except now the only thing left in there to stimulate production of…..is estrogen!

Andropause affects up to 12% of 40-80 year old men with that number growing to 40% of 70+ year old men.  These are big numbers, so why haven’t most people heard of andropause?  Think about this;

“If you put a frog into boiling water, it would quickly jump out.  But put it in cool water and heat it up slowly, it would quietly boil to death.”

But, don’t mistake the very real signs and symptoms of andropause as simply ‘getting older’.  Low T can cause progressive decreases in muscle mass and increases in fat deposition, an increased fall risk and osteoporosis, fatigue and a decrease in energy, depression and Irritability, memory impairment  and a decreased sense of well-being, a loss of sex drive and erectile dysfunction, cardiovascular and metabolic disease, and an increase in overall mortality.  That’s on top of possible hot flushes and gynecomastia (breast enlargement) from all the extra estrogen floating around. Mildly entertaining fact: a 60-year-old man will have more estrogen in his body than the 60-year-old woman he is (hopefully still) married to.

Treatment of low T starts in the most convenient of places, at home.  The biggest risk factors for having low T are lifestyle related, including the largest factor by far, obesity.  Body weight is inversely proportional to T levels, which means that as you gain body fat, you lose testosterone.  This is seen across ALL AGES because fat cells are used to convert testosterone into estrogen.  The primary treatment for all patients should be at a minimum, to improve their diet and increase their exercise levels. Other things that will help include reducing alcohol intake (especially hopped beer), maintaining a healthy sleep cycle, not smoking, avoiding stress and fixing other medical conditions (some common ones effect T levels).  Lastly there are some natural products available to help boost or normalise T levels, such as Tibullus and the aptly named epimedium (horny goat weed), however the research on the effectiveness of these is rare and often not positive.  So while this may be an option for you, just note that the supporting evidence is often lacking.

The mainstay of clinical treatment for testosterone deficiency is (it’s a hard one to guess)…..testosterone.  While it’s much more obvious in America, if you watch Dr. Oz or have been paying attention to internet pop-up ads lately (google must think I have low T), you’ll see it’s a popular topic at the moment.  Many men credit testosterone with giving them their quality of life back, and some doctors tout its use as the male anti-aging elixir and fountain of youth.  While other medical professionals consider testosterone replacement a trendy yet dangerous therapy without much research behind it.  I sit somewhere in the middle, where its place in therapy is evidence based and frankly just obvious.  The research says testosterone treatment in men with low testosterone will; heighten libido, improve erectile dysfunction, boost bone mineral density, enhance the strength in dominant muscles, increase lean body mass and decrease fat mass and improve mood and energy.

Whichever camp your doctor subscribes to, it should be known that testosterone replacement is not without risks and these should be discussed with them before initiating therapy.  Testosterone formulations range from tablets to injections but these formulations have always been less than ideal for various reasons.  More recently, the technology associated with transdermal creams and gels have improved which has allowed development of formulations that more closely mimic physiological production.  The higher strength, compounded products tend towards an easier and safer application, however there are now also several commercially available products as well.

All the above info was given with the premise that you should consult a healthcare professional before undertaking anything to do with this topic, and so as always if you want to know more, feel comfortable enough to discuss anything specifically or if your wife gave you this article to read, please don’t hesitate to drop into the pharmacy for a chat, visit another local health care practitioner or go to www.primecompounding.com.au for more info.

Written by Andrew Harvey

www.primecompounding.com.au

Dayboro Pharmacy, Phone 3425 1435,

Mon – Fri 8.30am – 5.30pm   

Sat 8.30am – 12.30pm  *

 

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