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Men also suffer menopause (1)

Oladapo Ashiru

We all know about the issue of female reproductive dysfunction, but most of us are unaware of the male aspect, which occurs as men grow older.

Menopause continues to be a problem in the adult male. If you are suffering from decreased sex drive or inability to sustain erection then you may be suffering from male menopause, otherwise called Andropause. The word is formed by combining two Greek words – andro (male) and pause (stop).

You thought that menopause was something women went through when they reached the age of 50, didn’t you? Well, men go through it too. But, unlike the female menopause, andropause affects the male sexual function.

Other symptoms of andropause are erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, depression, irritability, tiredness, loss of muscle size and strength, osteoporosis and increase in body weight, lack of concentration, memory loss and difficulty in sleeping. The good news is that this condition can be slowed down by the way we eat, what we eat and our lifestyle.

Foods that cause allergies, stress the stomach or the adrenaline gland are crucial to the development of andropause. The condition may also be accelerated by stress on the gallbladder which is also known as the ‘unsung body hero’

Men suffering from andropause may well feel that their manliness has indeed stopped or declined. Although medical practitioners have studied the condition since the 1940s, it is still the subject of a controversy. Many men still deny its existence.

However, it is becoming widely accepted in the scientific world as something that happens to men as they grow older. It is described by Jed Diamond, a California psychotherapist and author of Male Menopause as “puberty in reverse”. Like puberty, he noted, andropause wreaks “hormonal, psychological, interpersonal, social, sexual and spiritual changes in aging men just as puberty does for teenage youths”.

According to researchers in the Department of Urology, Queens University, Kingston General Hospital, Ontario, Canada, andropause happens to one in 200 Canadian men. A study conducted in 2003 by Dr. A. Festus and others of the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, found that 44 per cent of men aged between 30 and 70 suffer from erectile dysfunction. Eight per cent of the cases was severe and 36 per cent moderate.

Needless to say, the researchers found that the incidence of erectile dysfunction increased as men got older from 38.5 per cent for men aged between 31 and 40 years to 64 per cent for the older age group of 61-79 years. Most significantly, the researchers found that most men deny the existence of andropause.

About 39 per cent regard andropause as a myth, while another 24 per cent attribute it to various non-scientific causes which they usually blame on their wives. They, therefore, use this excuse to look for younger partners, only to discover that the problem has not gone away. Such men may stop looking for younger partners, but the denial of its existence and not realising that andropause has a medical foundation stops men from seeking appropriate medical help.

The condition is due to changing hormone levels in men, which progressively decline with age. It is also characterised by loss of testosterone, the hormone that makes men act like men. Most men’s testosterone levels drop as they age. However, some men are affected more than the others. The rate of decline varies from individual to individual. The loss of testosterone, which can happen to men as young as 35 years, is gradual with testosterone levels dropping by one per cent to 1.55 per cent annually, starting from the age of 30.

Testosterone levels drop by about 10 per cent every 10 years. At the same time, another hormone in the body called Sex Binding Hormone Globulin or SBHG traps much of the testosterone that is still circulating around the system and makes it unavailable to the body’s tissues to make them function properly.

The testosterone that is remaining to assist the tissues to function as they should is called “bio-available testosterone levels.”

Every man experiences a decline of bio-available testosterone, but some men’s levels dip lower than others. It is estimated that 30 per cent of men in their 50s will have testosterone levels low enough to cause andropause symptoms. Testosterone is one of the hormones forming the androgen panel or male hormones. According to World Health Organisation, total androgen levels, not just testosterone also affect male andropause as these hormones decline as men age.

The WHO study found that androgen levels of men aged 70 were only 10 per cent of that of men of 25 years. For this reason, some have tagged the condition as ADAM (Androgen Deficiency of the Aging Male).

Unlike women, men do not have a clear-cut signpost, such as the stopping of menstruation to tell them they are in andropause. Instead, it comes as a gradual and distressful decline in their sexuality, overall energy with increasing moodiness.

By the time most men have reached middle-age, they have experienced some symptoms of andropause. The bodily changes occur gradually in men and may be accompanied by changes in attitudes, moods, fatigue and a loss of energy, sex drive, and physical agility. Muscle mass and bone density decreases and, just like women, men are prone to broken bones and osteoporosis.

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