February 14, 2011

Symptoms of Male Menopause

Symptoms of Male Menopause Affect the Entire Body

Symptoms of male menopause are numerous.  That’s because testosterone, the main “male” hormone, exerts health benefits on the entire body.  It is far more than a sex and muscle hormone.  It protects the heart, the brain, the bones, and improves metabolism and body composition.

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus

Unlike women who typically experience a sudden decline in hormones, and therefore suffer from sudden onset of symptoms, hormonal decline in males is more gradual.  Consequently, symptoms begin slowly and many are non-specific, meaning that the symptoms do not necessarily have to be related to declining hormones and could be related to other underlying problems.  So it is rather easy to attribute the symptoms to something else like stress, or just plain “getting old”.

How Testosterone Works in a Nutshell

Testosterone and the other hormones work by activating a receptor on our cells triggering that cell into action.  So if it is a muscle cell testosterone will stimulate it build muscle.  If it is a bone cell testosterone will stimulate it to make more bone.  If it is a brain cell testosterone will stimulate it to create a new memory, solve a problem, concentrate and focus on a task, and provide a sense of confidence and well-being.

Man and the Symptoms of Male MenopauseTestosterone and the Brain

The brain is greatly affected by symptoms of male menopause. The brain contains an extremely high concentration of testosterone receptors.  So when testosterone production declines the brain begins to suffer.  That’s why many symptoms of male menopause are mental, psychological, and emotional in nature.   The suicide rate is highest in males over 70.  There are many possible explanations for that, but certainly testosterone deficiency needs to be strongly considered.

Male menopause is associated with depression, memory difficulties, inability to focus and concentrate, and lower self-confidence.  Studies show an inverse relationship between testosterone levels and Alzheimer’s disease.  Therefore, individuals with higher testosterone levels are less likely to get Alzheimer’s.

Testosterone and Sexual Function

Testosterone plays a major role in sexual function.  In both men and women, it is the hormone of desire.  The sexual effects in part are related to testosterone’s effects on the brain as well as its direct effects on the genitalia.  Testosterone increases production of nitric oxide, which is a potent vasodilator (opens and relaxes blood vessels).  Vasodilatation is critical to achieving and maintaining an erection.  Testosterone also improves sensitivity of the genitalia and enhances the intensity of orgasm.

So low testosterone levels can lead to a loss of libido, a decline in sexual performance, and less sexual pleasure or satisfaction.

Testosterone and Musculoskeletal Health

Everybody knows that testosterone helps build muscles.  The importance of maintaining muscle mass and strength gets overlooked by physicians.  Yet, it’s the musculoskeletal system that enables us to enjoy life enhancing our quality of life.  Low testosterone leads to sarcopenia, or muscle loss.  Muscle loss contributes to difficulty with ambulation; increases risk of falling, and can make rather simple movements like getting out of chair extremely difficult.

Low testosterone leads to loss of bone density and strength raising the risk of developing an osteoporotic fracture.  Between 18% and 33% of individuals who sustain a hip fracture die within one year.  Yet, such fractures are largely preventable.

Other Risks and Symptoms of Male Menopause

Male menopause is associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes and obesity.  Studies also show that men with testosterone levels in the upper third of the reference range are less likely to get heart disease and cancer than those men whose levels are “normal” but in the lower third of the reference range.

Get Evaluated

Be sure to be evaluated by a physician if you believe you may be suffering symptoms of male menopause.  A physical examination and laboratory studies are needed to assess your hormone levels and exclude other medical conditions.

Related articles include “Testosterone Deficiency“, “Testosterone Therapy“, and “Low Testosterone Levels“.

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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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