Sunday, 10 November 2013

Movember: Male Menopause?

Can men suffer from menopause (or as some might call it, man-o-pause)?

The answer is yes and no.  Men can suffer from something called Andropause which is often called male menopause but this isn't quite the same as female menopause.

I'd read an article in the Gulf News Health section about this last week and decided to educate myself further given the fact that this is Movember and I should learn as much about men's health issues as I can.

What causes Andropause?

Basically, as men, we tend to gradually start suffering from what is called an androgen deficiency, which is when we start having lower than normal levels of male hormones as we get older.  The primary hormone that typically triggers this is testosterone.  Unlike women where the drop in sex hormone production can drop suddenly, in men this happens gradually over a number of years, typically starting from the age of 30.  Thus, andropause and menopause somewhat different.

What do we get from Androgens?

Androgens give you your hairy chest.
Androgens are what typically give you a lot of your male characteristics such as sexual and reproductive functions.  Androgens also play a part in changes during puberty such as facial hair (apt for Movember), body hair, muscle development, change in your voice (and that freaky period when your voice is high and low in the same sentence until you've finally found your adult voice), development of your mojo (in Austin Powers terms), prostate function and sperm production.

What happens when Androgen levels drop?

I saw a whole list of symptoms of what happens when androgen levels drop but before I list it out, I wanted to highlight the fact that many of these symptoms could be related to other diseases or deficiencies such as diabetes, lack of exercise, a poor diet or a whole host other things so make sure you investigate further with your doctor before convincing yourself if you're suffering from andropause.

The symptoms I came across were:

  • Dropping levels of sexual desire
  • Hot flushes and sweating (again this can have many other reasons as to why you'd suffer from this)
  • Breast development (if you've not done so, read my Movember post on breast cancer in men).
  • Depression (you can be depressed for other reasons as well) 
  • Lethargy and Fatigue (lack of sleep, lack of exercise, a poor diet or diabetes can also be reasons for this)
  • Reduced muscle mass and strength (a general rule of thumb is you lose about a half kilo of muscle mass every year as you get older and this is why you should mix up your gym routine with some strength training alongside your cardio workouts)
  • Increased body fat, especially around the abdomen (too much beer can also be a cause of this)
  • Reduced sexual function
  • Loss of body hair (I'm not expert here but may be changing the type of shampoo you use as you get older could help slightly reduce the rate of hair loss).
  • Reduce bone mass putting you at risk for osteoporosis (having enough Vitamin D and taking calcium supplements as you get older is highly recommended.  Despite living in a sunny environment in the UAE, most of us suffer from Vitamin D deficiency and the best way to get your dose of Vitamin D is simply opening the window in the morning and enjoying the sun's rays).

Checking for Andropause and Treating it?

I'd highly recommend you speak to your doctor about this.  The internet can be a treasure trove of misinformation when it comes to medial treatments.  If you are over the age of 30, I'd recommend you do a check up once a year where you can get questions like this answer.  If you're hitting 40 and living in the UAE, I'd suggest you start doing this annually.


What have I learned?

So one thing I learned during this month of Movember is that many conditions that we thought were unique to women such as breast cancer or menopause actually exist in men as well.  The other thing I learned is that you can't blame things on andropause.  I read quite a few stories on the Internet about how people have overcome this so don't use it as an excuse.  Use it as a means to help get yourself back on track.  If you see someone who looks like they're suffering from it, encourage them and help steer them in the right direction.

The purpose of Movember is to highlight men's health issues and I hope blog posts like this do help educate you and your loved ones.

I'd also like to credit the Better Health Channel which was one of the better websites on androgen deficiencies I found.  I'd suggest you visit the link to learn more about the condition.

P.S. I'm supporting Movember to raise awareness for men's health issues.  To find out more, please visit my Movember page on my blog.  If you'd like to donate to the cause, then please visit the donation page of the #Mustachepreneurs and any contributions will be graciously accepted.