By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Women aren’t the only ones to experience “the change” later in life. “Andropause” is often used to describe symptoms affecting mature men such as decreased libido, lowered vitality, weight gain, erectile dysfunction, decreased muscle mass and bone density, anemia, pre-diabetes, depression and increased irritability.
These symptoms correlate with older age because that’s when levels of testosterone begin to dip for many men.
About four out of 10 men over the age of 45 have low testosterone and that number increases as men get older, according to the Urology Care Foundation in Linthicum, Md.
Some of the symptoms of andropause can indicate other issues, so it’s important to seek a medical exam. A blood test can measure testosterone levels.
If a medical provider identifies low testosterone as the reason for the symptoms, the provider and patient discuss options and weigh the risks and benefits of various treatments, if that’s what the patient wants. If the symptoms are minor and can be addressed through non-medical means, that’s a good first step.
Bashar Omarbasha, urologist with Associated Medical Professionals based in Syracuse, said that men diagnosed with low testosterone may benefit from losing weight and that’s the initial response he recommends.
“The most common reason for low testosterone in the US is male obesity,” Omarbasha said. “Belly fat suppresses the production of testosterone. Once they lose the weight, the testosterone levels start to go up, but you have to convince them of that.”
He said that metabolic syndrome ties in with high cholesterol, diabetes, and low testosterone. Eating better, exercising and losing weight can improve his testosterone levels to within a normal range.
Omarbasha said that men diagnosed with low testosterone usually respond well to testosterone replacement therapy. Within a short time period of using testosterone gel, implants or intramuscular injections, the symptoms subside.
“They come to the office very happy and they feel like a young kid now,” he said.
A contraindication for testosterone replacement therapy is the presence of prostate cancer. Though replacement therapy cannot cause prostate cancer, if the patient already has prostate cancer, testosterone replacement therapy can accelerate it. That’s why patients receiving testosterone replacement therapy are regularly screened for prostate cancer.
Omarbasha said that many men do not see their doctor about the symptoms related to low testosterone and he wishes more men would.
“It is highly treatable and men can find relief,” he said.
Christie Mason, gym manager and personal trainer at Stability Fitness in Oswego, said that an improved diet and weight lifting can improve testosterone levels some, but popping off a few reps of light weights won’t do much.
“They need to work the legs because they have bigger muscles,” she said. “That will help increase their testosterone.”