INITIALLY believed to be a myth and something that only affects men who drink and smoke, recent studies reveal that male menopause, also known as andropause is real and threatening.
Health experts and researchers say anxiety, mood swings, weak erection, lack of libido are some of the symptoms of male-related menopause, with health professionals at the Centre for Men’s Health in London saying around 20% of men over 50 have a testosterone deficiency.
Male menopause is described as an “age-related change in male hormone levels”, with the same group of symptoms also known as testosterone deficiency, androgen deficiency and lateonset of hypogonadism.
“The male menopause or andropause is undeniably real, and is recognised as a common cause of decreased motivation and sexual performance and moodiness in middle-aged and older men,” says world-renowned nutritional expert Patrick Holford.
He also touched on the hardly spoken topic plaguing the modern man, the loss of libido. “Profoundly relaxing yet invigorating, sex adds a vital dimension to our lives and is an antidote to the crazy pace of our century. But when we’re sub-optimally nourished, it’s not just our skin, hair and moods that suffer – it’s our sex lives too.”
Andropause comes with age-related changes in male hormone levels but it is unlike menopause in that the decrease in testosterone and the development of symptoms are more gradual than in women, with most common symptoms of andropause being loss of potency, loss of sex drive and loss of morning erections.
Physical symptoms however are similar to those experienced by women and include joint aches and pains, dry and thinning skin, occasional sweating at night and hot flushes.
“The most common psychological symptoms are mild to moderate depression, irritability and an early reduction in memory and mental concentration,” he said.
Sharing the same sentiments as Holford, endocrinologist Mohamed Haffejee, head of urology at the University of the Witwatersrand, says men do not take andropause as seriously, like women do, but don’t know what they’re looking for.
“Men just assume they’re seeing the inevitable consequences of the passage of time,” he said.
While testosterone levels start to decline from ages 30 for all men, the age distribution for andropause peaks at 55. In some cases men suffer symptoms three to five years earlier, so the time of onset can be similar to the female menopause, at age 50.
Manna Health, a local online health portal, also says some men undergo a “midlife crisis,” in which they become concerned about what they have accomplished so far professionally and personally, which in turn causes anxiety and depression and may possibly trigger a cascade of factors that lead to symptoms associated with male menopause
Besides ensuring better sleeping patterns and healthier eating habits to help improve andropause symptoms, Holford recommends that patients and suffers “eat slow-releasing carbohydrates and avoid white breads, white pasta and white rice, and ensure a good supply of protein from vegan sources”.
They are also advised to take essential fats such as oil-rich fish, nuts and seeds and avoid of alcohol and smoking as the most important ways to treat andropause.