What Senior Men Need to Know About Andropause
The older you get, the more your body undergoes changes. The changes women experience during menopause get a lot of attention, but those associated with andropause, or “low T” – an issue experienced by a number of senior men – don’t get talked about quite as often.
Nonetheless, it’s something many men can expect to experience. Dr. Paul Gittens, the Director of the Philadelphia Center for Sexual Medicine, says “Testosterone deficiency is very common in aging males, occurring in 38% of men between 45 and 90 years old.”
The Symptoms of Andropause
Low T, or low testosterone, is a decrease in testosterone that commonly occurs as men age. Testosterone is the hormone behind some of the traits society commonly associates with masculinity, like a deep voice and broad chest. It also has a direct relationship to male sex drive.
The symptoms of low T can vary for different men and change over time. Dr. Matthew Mintz says that at first:
“Symptoms of low testosterone include feeling tired, having little or no interest in sex, and even depression. However, after a year of having low T, men can experience loss of muscle mass, decreased facial and body hair, memory problems and they may even have their breasts start to develop.”
In addition, low T can speed up the aging process and a lot of the symptoms common to aging, explains Dr. Ruben Alejandro Medina Perez of Vida Wellness and Beauty:
“Muscle mass production will decline, regenerative properties will slow down, cognitive function and memory will gradually fade. Slowly and continuously your body systems no longer stimulated by the hormones that govern their function will come to a halt contributing to the aging process.”
If that sounds troubling, the good news is that for many senior men who experience it, the effects can be minimal. Dr. Mintz explains:
“Unlike menopause, where women get almost complete estrogen deficiency and experience some symptoms (i.e. hot flashes); in androgen deficiency, the decline in testosterone is relatively small and many men will not have any symptoms at all.”
If you notice the symptoms described, it’s worth talking to a doctor.
Who’s at Risk of Experiencing Low T?
Low T is a normal part of aging for many men. “Testosterone has been found to decrease about 10% per decade in the aging male,” says Dr. Gittens. For most men, that decrease is gradual enough that you won’t notice much of a difference.
There are some health issues that can increase your risk of having symptomatic andropause, including:
- An infection in the testicles
- An injury of the testicles
- Cancer treatments
- History of steroid abuse
- Kidney disease
To be clear, none of the items on that list guarantee a future diagnosis of low T, but if you do have one or more of the issues listed, your chances may be higher and it’s worth talking to a doctor sooner rather than later if you start to experience symptoms.
What Can You Do About It?
If your doctor confirms you have a diagnosis of low T, you have a few treatment options. “The main treatment for ‘andropause’ or low testosterone is testosterone replacement,” explains Dr. Mintz. “There are a variety of preparations of supplemental testosterone, which includes pills, injections, patches and gels.”
But you shouldn’t be too quick to jump to taking supplemental testosterone. Dr. Mintz warns that most men don’t need it, and if you take it when there’s not a need you could be putting yourself at risk of harm. Some research has suggested a link between increased testosterone and heart attacks, prostate cancer and stroke.
Perhaps predictably, you can also reduce the effects with the familiar go-to recommendations you always hear: better eating and exercise. Dr. Medina suggests that:
“A healthy organic diet will go a long way to slow down the aging process,” and adds that since “testosterone is directly involved in muscle development and maintenance…. staying active should be a main priority.”
If your doctor does recommend testosterone replacement, then you shouldn’t try to rely alone on diet and exercise, but it can be a good supplement to the recommended treatment. If your symptoms are mild and don’t merit testosterone replacement, it can be a way to slow down the effects of your naturally lower testosterone levels as you age.
If you’re worried about low T, know that you have options for dealing with it if it becomes a problem. But don’t expect the worst before you talk to a doctor. They can confirm if your symptoms really do point toward an andropause diagnosis and help you determine the best treatment options to get you back to normal.