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Male Menopause: Myth Or Reality?

Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality health cover, outlines the science behind male menopause, its symptoms, and the various treatments available, thereby separating fact from fiction.

 

Menopause is widely recognised and understood, most often associated with women reaching a certain age where their reproductive capacities cease. However, another term that’s been stirring the pot in medical discussions and amongst men over 50 is male menopause.

 

Is male menopause a genuine physiological occurrence, or is it a myth? In reality, what is often termed male menopause is more accurately referred to as andropause.

Understanding Andropause

Male menopause, or andropause, does not entirely parallel female menopause. While women experience a sudden drop in hormone levels (particularly estrogen), leading to the cessation of menstrual periods and loss of fertility, men’s hormone changes are more gradual. The critical player in men’s cases is testosterone, the primary male sex hormone.

 

Their testosterone levels naturally decline as men age, typically starting around middle age. This reduction is about 1% per year after the age of 30. However, this decline is more significant in some men, leading to various symptoms.

Symptoms of Andropause

Symptoms of andropause can mimic those of traditional female menopause. Still, they can also be associated with other health conditions or lifestyle factors.

Affinity Health highlights common symptoms associated with andropause:

  • Fatigue: Men may experience persistent tiredness or a decrease in energy levels.

 

  • Depression and irritability: Mood changes, such as sadness, irritability, or a decreased sense of well-being, can be present.

 

 

  • Difficulties with memory and concentration: Men may experience memory problems, difficulties concentrating, or a decline in cognitive function.

 

  • Sleep problems: Insomnia, difficulty falling or staying asleep, or poor sleep quality can be symptoms of andropause.

 

  • Hot flushes: Hot flushes, similar to those experienced by women during menopause, may occur in some men. When testosterone levels decrease, it can affect the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for regulating body temperature. As a result, the hypothalamus may misinterpret signals and trigger sudden dilation of blood vessels and sweating to cool the body down.

 

  • Decreased muscle strength and stamina: Men experiencing andropause may notice a decline in muscle strength and endurance. They may find it more challenging to engage in physical activities or experience a loss of muscle tone.

 

  • Increased body fat and weight gain: Andropause can contribute to changes in body composition, including an increase in body fat, particularly around the abdomen. This shift in fat distribution can lead to weight gain and a change in body shape.

 

 

  • Changes in hair growth: Andropause can be accompanied by changes in hair growth patterns. Men may notice thinning or loss of hair on the scalp and an increase in hair growth on other parts of the body, such as the ears or nose.

“It’s important to note that these symptoms may not solely result from lowered testosterone levels. They can also be attributed to other age-related factors, lifestyle choices, or underlying health conditions,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.

 

“For instance, obesity, diabetes, thyroid conditions, or depression can contribute to or exacerbate the symptoms experienced by men during andropause. If you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of andropause, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional who can evaluate your specific situation.”

Diagnosing Andropause

Given these diverse potential causes, diagnosing andropause can be challenging. Physicians typically rely on a combination of symptom presentation and testosterone levels to make a diagnosis. It’s important to note that testosterone levels naturally vary throughout the day, and a single test might not be sufficient to establish a diagnosis. Consequently, a repeat test or series of tests may be required.

Managing Andropause: Treatment Options

Once a diagnosis of andropause is established, what can be done to manage it? Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is the most common treatment. This therapy aims to restore hormone levels to those of a younger man and alleviate symptoms. TRT can be administered through injections, skin gels, patches, or implants.

Potential Risks of Treatment

While TRT can help improve symptoms such as low mood, fatigue, and decreased sexual drive, it’s not without potential risks.

 

TRT can cause side effects such as acne, increased red blood cell countsleep apnea, and changes in cholesterol levels. There is also ongoing debate about whether it might increase the risk of prostate cancer or cardiovascular disease. Therefore, TRT should always be considered in consultation with a healthcare provider, balancing potential benefits and risks.

Lifestyle Modifications and Coping Strategies

Apart from TRT, addressing lifestyle factors can play a significant role in managing andropause symptoms.

 

A balanced diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and reduced alcohol consumption can all help improve the general sense of well-being and manage symptoms. Regular check-ups are crucial to monitor blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and other potential health issues that can exacerbate symptoms of andropause.

 

Psychotherapy or counselling can be beneficial too. Dealing with ageing and changes in one’s body and vitality can be emotionally challenging. Professional help can provide strategies to cope and adapt to these changes.

Breaking the Stigma

In conclusion, while male menopause might be a misleading term, the cluster of symptoms associated with ageing and lowered testosterone levels in men is very real.

 

“It’s crucial to remember that these changes are a normal part of ageing and not indicative of a man losing his masculinity or vigour,” adds Hewlett.

 

“Open dialogues about this topic can break the barriers of misunderstanding and stigma, allowing men to seek help to navigate this natural phase of life. Knowledge is power – by understanding andropause, men can better manage the changes and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle well into their golden years.”

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading health cover provider, offering you a range of options at affordable rates, including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, budget, and lifestyle. Our healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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