As the women in your life hit their 40s and 50s, you may overhear them talking about menopause, often in hushed voices. And you may have found yourself thinking, “Glad I don’t have to deal with anything like that!”
But is that true? You’ve probably heard the word “andropause” and wondered if it’s really a thing. Do you have to worry about big changes to your body as you hit your 40s and 50s?
Well, yes. But not in the way that women do with menopause. Andropause is far more gradual. So much so that it can sneak up on you. You might find yourself low on energy or see your sexual performance deteriorating…but it all happens so stealthily that you can’t really point to a moment when anything changed.
Let’s dive into the topic of andropause, unravel the myths from the reality, and talk about how you can beat the symptoms.
What Is Andropause?
“Andropause” is a word used to describe the stage men go through as their testosterone levels decrease, something that occurs naturally with age. In fact, men begin to lose about 1% of their testosterone per year beginning in their 30s. If their testosterone levels drop below the average range of 300 to 1,000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL), they’re considered to have low testosterone or testosterone deficiency.
Some people call this diagnosis “andropause,” drawing from the female condition menopause and pairing it with the word “androgen,” which refers to male sex hormones. However, andropause is unlike menopause in many ways, and men shouldn’t look at women’s experience as any kind of model for their own. Women enter menopause when they stop ovulating and are no longer fertile. This change occurs relatively rapidly, over the course of a few years; after that time, they’re considered post-menopausal.
Men, on the other hand, do not lose their fertility with andropause. Men can be fertile and continue to father children well into their 90s in some cases. In addition, men don’t experience a sudden change with andropause. Instead, the changes in hormonal levels creep up on men so slowly that they generally aren’t aware of what’s going on with their bodies. Only after the cumulative loss of testosterone over several years makes itself known do most men have any idea that something is happening to their bodies.
What Are The Symptoms of Andropause?
While not all men experience symptoms of andropause, up to 40% of men start to experience the symptoms of andropause in their 30s or 40s. These symptoms click in gradually, so it’s easy to chalk up your decreased sex drive, say, or your perpetual exhaustion, to things going on in your day-to-day life, unaware that there’s a medical cause for how you’re feeling.
The most obvious symptoms of andropause are the ones related to sexual function and desire. Many men with low testosterone levels find that they’ve lost the sexual desire they once enjoyed — and in some cases, their sexual performance suffers as well. Not surprisingly, erectile dysfunction is often the symptom that causes men to realize something has gone wrong. But it’s far from the only symptom of andropause.
Andropause symptoms can affect your entire body, and many men experience mental health symptoms as well. Physical symptoms can include:
- Exhaustion and fatigue
- Loss of energy
- Night sweats
- Joint pain
- Loss of skin elasticity
- Weight gain, especially around the belly
- Osteoporosis (loss of bone density)
- Loss of body hair
- Decreased muscle mass
On top of that, you may experience mental health symptoms in addition to that decreased libido. If any of these sound familiar, low testosterone could be at the core of the issue:
- Mood swings
- Loss of the ability to concentrate
- Memory issues
- Loss of motivation
You can experience these symptoms, of course, for reasons other than testosterone deficiency. That’s why it’s so important to get tested. Once your doctor knows your testosterone levels, they can best plan an approach to dealing with your andropausal symptoms.
How Is Andropause Diagnosed?
Since andropause is triggered by decreases in your testosterone levels, you can find out what’s going on through simple blood tests. Your doctor will discuss your medical history with you and learn all about your symptoms before providing a diagnosis. In some cases, they may want to run tests of your pituitary gland or other blood bests to determine the reasons behind your symptoms.
If your blood results show low testosterone levels, your doctor can move on to helping you find solutions for your condition.
What Treatments Are Available for Andropause and Low Testosterone?
If your testosterone levels are found to be low, you can turn to us at Texas Men’s Health Group for a wide range of hormone replacement therapy options. If testosterone replacement therapy is right for you, you’re likely to see a profound effect on your body. Sure, your low libido will rev back into the normal range — but you can expect to see plenty of other changes in your body as well, starting within just a few weeks.
Your choice for the mode of testosterone replacement therapy depends largely on your personal preferences and your lifestyle. Your doctor will discuss with you how much time and focus you want to spend on your therapy, offering options that range from everyday, hands-on involvement on your part to months where you don’t have to think about your testosterone levels at all.
If you want to be more hands-on, you may opt for testosterone gel, which you’ll apply yourself every couple of days to your upper arm. The testosterone absorbs through your skin and enters your bloodstream. However, it’s not safe for anyone else to get their hands (literally) on this gel, so you may choose to avoid this option if you have young kids around the house.
Similar to testosterone gel is the testosterone patch. Again, you’ll apply it yourself every few days. The patch actually contains the same gel you’d apply directly, but in a compact format. Think of it as similar to a nicotine or airsickness patch that releases its substances slowly through the skin.
If you don’t want to have to deal with testosterone levels every few days, you might prefer testosterone injections. We’re happy to administer these in our office, or we can teach you how to do the job on your own at home. Depending on the dosage, these injections can keep your testosterone levels healthy for anywhere from two to 10 weeks.
If needles aren’t your thing but you still want to be hands-off, ask us about testosterone pellets. These slow-release delivery systems are inserted into the skin under your buttocks or upper thigh. They release testosterone reliably for several months at a time, and you don’t have to do a thing.
Your doctor will help you find the right dosage and the right delivery system. It all starts with that blood test to determine the cause of your symptoms.
What Else Can I Do to Improve Andropause Symptoms?
While only testosterone replacement therapy will make a real difference in your testosterone levels, you may be able to make some lifestyle changes that boost your overall health and fight back against the specific symptoms of andropause.
Stress plays a big role in the mental health symptoms of andropause, and it’s certainly a factor if you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction. You can help get on top of the stress in your life by seeking therapy as well as by incorporating mindfulness, relaxation techniques and meditation into your daily routine.
Lack of sleep can exacerbate stress as well as the other symptoms of andropause. Practicing good sleep hygiene can help make a difference. Keep the temperature cool in your room during sleep hours, and install blackout curtains to keep light from waking you. A good pair of earplugs can help as well. Turn off electronic devices an hour before bedtime, as their blue light can signal your brain to stay awake. Sleep experts also recommend that you use your bed only for sleep and sex.
Healthy eating can also help many of the symptoms of andropause, including those mental health and sleep-related symptoms. Avoid processed foods as much as possible, and limit the amount of sugar in your diet (since low testosterone levels and diabetes are linked). Foods that may boost your testosterone levels include:
- Lentils and beans
- Shellfish and tuna
- Almonds and other nuts
- Leafy greens
Ramping up your exercise levels can also push back against the symptoms of andropause. Best choices are high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and weight training, but yoga’s also a good idea because of its stress-beating components. Even a walk at lunch time can help. And all that healthy eating and good exercise should help you drop a little weight — which in itself may help get your testosterone levels back closer to where they should be.
Where Can I Get Help With the Symptoms of Andropause?
The answer to that question is easy. At Texas Men’s Health Group, we’re here for all the men in the Dallas area, and we know that you want to continue to have a great quality of life no matter your age. Often the answer to andropause symptoms is testosterone replacement therapy — and we are experts in just that. We’ll help you understand what choices are right for you and show you the available solutions. Contact us today if you’re concerned about what’s going on with your body, and we’ll get you on the path to vitality as fast as possible.