In recent weeks we have explored the issues surrounding menopause for women.  Many women have expressed their thanks for the information brought forth and others asked for information about their partners’ changing bodies and minds at the “change of life.”  I decided to take an unofficial poll of some of my male patients this past week to see just what symptoms they had and what changes they experience during mid-life.  We talked to rodeo cowboy wannabes, heavy equipment operators, college professors, factory workers, and hairdressers.  The information was interesting enough to make me do some research on the issue of male menopause and I discovered something profound.  We women do not own the domain of menopause.  As much as the males in our lives might not want to believe it, men suffer from menopausal symptoms too.

Doctors’ opinions are divided on the subject of male menopause.  While some of them say that the period of life between the ages of 45 and 55 is an emotionally charged one and that emotional state triggers a mid-life crisis complete with the red corvette syndrome, others argue that the physical changes are undeniable.  The physical symptoms reported by some men are part of a syndrome that is brought about by declining hormone levels in men and are not unlike those experienced by menopausal women.

Society says that menopause happens only to women, but men have been having symptoms like fatigue, depression, irritability, reduced libido, impotence, weight gain, and changes in hair and skin for years.  Some men just chalk up these symptoms as signs of aging or have not reported them at all.  There is some trigger in men that keeps health issues quiet in hopes that they will go away because, of course, no one else in the world could possibly have the same problems and there certainly is no treatment for them.  Pardon my sarcasm here, gentlemen, but it is indeed like pulling teeth for us women to get anything out of you regarding your health.

Some third year medical students at Monash University in Victoria, Australia have conducted extensive research on the issue of male menopause.  According to the student researchers, male menopause, also known as andropause or viropause, begins with hormonal, physical, and chemical changes that occur in all men between the ages of 45 and 55, though it can occur as early as 35 or as late as 65.  In the healthiest of men, by age 55 the amount of testosterone released into the bloodstream is significantly less than it was just 10 years prior.  By age 80, most male hormone levels have declined to those of pre-puberty.  When there is a rapid drop in testosterone levels, men experience symptoms similar to those experienced by menopausal women.  It is not altogether impossible for men to experience hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep disturbances very much like women do.  In addition to the misery of these symptoms, men often experience impotence, and that really complicates matters.  The advent of Viagra and the chic marketing that accompanies it have added spice back to many men’s sex lives and have made it socially acceptable to suffer from impotence.

The researchers at Monash University made some suggestions regarding lifestyle changes that have helped many men while going through this period of life. They include eating a healthy, balanced diet, exercising regularly, decreasing stress and worry in your life, getting plenty of sleep, and changing your attitude about sex.  Start to view sex as part of a relationship rather than the main event.  Relationships also consist of friendship, companionship, love, and spirituality.

Research on hormone replacement therapy for men is relatively new, and you should exercise caution when you are making decisions about treating your symptoms.  Include your life partner and your healthcare team in your choices.  There are good books available on the subject.  Jed Diamond is the author of two of them: Male Menopause and Surviving Male Menopause – A Guide for Women and Men. As with everything else in life, viewing the glass as half full rather than half empty can make or break your entry into what Jed Diamond refers to as 2nd adulthood.  According to Diamond, “Some believe that male menopause is the road to oblivion, the end of our sexual power.  But for those who have the courage to take the road, male menopause is the passage to the most passionate, productive, and purposeful time of a man’s life.”  Take the high road – treat your body and your spirit well.