Dubai: Unlike women who undergo bodily changes due to drop in hormone production at a certain age, it is not clear when men start undergoing “the change” in their lives.
“In men it is not certain when it starts, but anytime from the 50s men begin experiencing the symptoms. People are shy to talk about it and we have to prod into the [medical] history to find out,” says Dr Samir Shirodkar, specialist urologist at Mediclinic Welcare Hospital.
The reason why men are hesitant to talk about the changes they undergo is because one of the symptoms is a loss of libido.
The changes that occur in men are also hormonal related and said to be due to a drop in testosterone. This change in a man’s life is termed as “andropause” and doctors also term it as ‘androgen (testosterone) deficiency’.
“There is a loss of vitality, vigour, a feeling of fatigue and tiredness. You start to complain of vague aches and pains that you cannot explain. You are not as enthusiastic to do the routine things as you were doing earlier. There is a decreased ability to perform in bed,’ says the doctor.
The symptoms are very much like depression and the doctor has to make sure that there is no other illness that can be attributed to such a change that occurs slowly and not as well-defined as in women in menopause.
“One has to accept that you are progressing in age, says Dr Shirodkar. But he notes that, “If you are young at heart, you are always going to be young.” There are also ways to put off the symptoms or to curb such changes.
While ageing reduces the production of testosterone, serious diseases such as diabetes could also lower the hormonal levels.
The testosterone levels (T Level) in men decline by around 1 to 2 per cent every year from the age of 40 years. But bad lifestyle choices are also responsible for the symptoms mentioned. These may be due to relationships issues also such separation or divorce or money issues.
Most men may suffer from a mid-life crisis that can also trigger such symptoms. During this phase in life some men believe that half their life has passed by and they either do something outrageous or go into depression. At this time drinking would exasperate the problem.
Diagnosing male menopause
The doctor will first do a physical examination and order a blood test that will measure the testosterone level.
While testosterone levels may be low as men age, the testes do not run out of the substance to make the hormone. Men can continue to make sperm into their 80s or longer, unlike women when the production of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone comes to a halt.
To help curb the changes, the doctor says testosterone supplements are given to boost the hormone levels. The supplements come in tablets, gels and some are even injected.
Dieticians will also tell you at this point to reinforce your diet with foods rich in zinc. They will advise that foods such as oysters, or herbs and nuts help increase the testosterone in the body.
Diets that are rich in mono-saturated fats, found in avocados and nuts help boost the hormone. Dark chocolate is also recommended.
The doctor cautions however, that like most supplements, testosterone supplements could have side-effects. Some of the risks involved include skin reactions, enlarged breasts, and may stimulate non-cancerous growth of the prostate, and it is essential the supplements are taken under a doctor’s supervision.
Doctor Shirodkar says that while the UAE’s population is relatively young there is a significant number of expatriates who are growing older. “There are people who have been living here for 10 or 20 years and time catches up with you,” he says. Still, he believes that you will only be as old you feel. “If you are mentally young at heart, you don’t age as fast,” he says.
There are other ways that one can slowdown ageing and delay the onset of andropause. “Make lifestyle changes and maintain a good diet,” he says.
Besides other environmental factors, smoking worsens your (sexual) performance, he says. “Many lifestyle issues need to be corrected as a whole,” he says.
To keep yourself fit, do 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week, the doctor recommends. Avoid junk food, reduce your salt intake and drink adequate amounts of water.
Doctor Shirodkar says that generally men do not take care of their health, but people have to be aware that there are medications they can access and that there is professional medical help available.
Changes during Andropause:
1) Low testosterone may make you less motivated to do things you normally do.
2) You may feel depressed or have may not be able to concentrate properly.
3) There will be lack of libido, or sex drive, and infertility.
4) You may feel sleepy most of the time or have insomnia and are unable to get a good night’s rest.
5) Your muscle bulk will reduce and you may less energy and also have low bone density.
What is Testosterone:
1) It is a male hormone and is produced in the testes.
2) Low Testosterone levels is when T levels fall to below 300 ng/dL (nanograms per decilitre).
3) Normal levels are: 300 to 1,000 ng/dL
(If you have diabetes, ask your doctor if you should be tested for Low T).
Blood Sample test:
1) It measures the amount of the testosterone in the blood.
2) The doctor may advise that certain drugs be stopped before the test.
3) The test will show any abnormal male hormone production.
4) There are urine and saliva tests also but not as accurate as a blood serum test.