It’s probably one of the most dreaded words in the female language, but guess what, guys, it’s something you should be watching for as well.
Male menopause is a real thing.
What is Male Menopause?
Known as andropause, male menopause may not be as severe as female menopause, but these natural hormonal changes men go through as they age is just as important to understand as their female counterparts.
When younger, men make a lot of androgens, including testosterone. Take a look at this range of testosterone, by age.
When young, men naturally produce a high amount of androgens (like testosterone) from the adrenal glands in the testicles and a minimal amount of estrogen. The high testosterone levels combined with the low estrogen levels means younger men typically have a high ratio of testosterone to estrogen (T/E ratio – E = estrogen NOT epitestosterone as used in artificial steroid testing). This high T/E ratio means these younger males have a more efficient metabolism, more muscle mass and less body fat. Typically, a higher T/E ratio leads to more energy and higher libidos.
Note that starting around age 30, men typically lose 1 percent per year, on average. So, if you were at 900 ng/dL – the high end of the “optimal” testosterone range (700 to 900) – when you were 30, chances are the next year your level would fall about 9 points, to 891. At this rate, by the time you were 50 you’d be down to 737. Still in the optimal level, but if you were at the lower end of optimal, in this same 20 years, you’d be out of it.
It is this decrease in testosterone and increase in estrogen that leads to male menopause AKA andropause.
So, why does this happen?
Why Do Men Lose Testosterone as They Age?
As men age, the enzyme aromatase starts to be significantly more active and begins to convert testosterone into estradiol (a form of estrogen). So, aromatase starts decreasing your testosterone and increasing your estrogen, simultaneously, giving a double whammy to your T/E ratio.
It’s this conversion that leads to male menopause AKA andropause.
What is the Optimal T/E (Testosterone to Estrogen) Ratio?
As mentioned, the optimal testosterone (optimal, not average) is between 700 and 900 ng/dL. For estradiol, the optimal range is between 20 and 30 pg/ml. Although there’s no optimal T/E ratio per se, being within both of those sets of numbers would put you in the optimal range.
You can’t say the optimal ratio is say, 35 to 1 ratio, because it’s not necessarily correct. This ratio could be a 700 testosterone/ 20 estradiol (both in the optimal range – good). However, it could also be a 350 testosterone/10 estradiol (both below optimal – bad).
What are the Symptoms of Male Menopause or Andropause?
There are several symptoms of male menopause. These include:
- Increased fatigue
- Muscle weakness
- Increased fat
- Reduction of erection quality
- Erectile dysfunction
Why Should I Care About Male Menopause AKA Andropause?
As your body lowers testosterone and increases estrogen, lean muscle tissue decreases and body fat naturally increases. This results in a snowball effect making the situation even worse, as increased body fat increases estrogen production, which further skews the ratio.
This decrease in muscle mass and increase in fat is often most noticeable in aging men in their waistline, as belly fat is the first to show accumulation. Other than this being traditionally less aesthetically attractive, increased belly fat is dangerous when it comes to your cerebrovascular and cardiovascular health.
According to the American Heart Association, more belly fat increases the chance of brain and heart circulation disorders.
The lowered testrogen, increased estrogen levels can also increase your risk of prostate cancer. Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, a medical doctor and researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has been studying testosterone, testosterone replacement, and prostate cancer risk for several years. His research has shown that low testosterone levels, not high, are associated with prostate cancer.
Possible Factors that Can Exacerbate Male Menopause/Andropause
In addition to the natural aging process, there are several factors that can exacerbate male menopause. These include:
- Genetic conditions
- Autoimmune disease
- Pituitary tumors
What Should I Do if I Think I’m Experiencing Male Menopause?
If you suspect you may be experiencing andropause (male menopause) talk to your physician. Be sure you aren’t just tested for testosterone levels though. Your physician should also test for your estrogen levels. It’s absolutely possible for your testosterone to be in the normal, or even optimal, range, but your estrogen levels to be higher than optimal.
Your doctor may prescribe androgen replacement treatment. Additionally, changes to your diet and increased exercise can help counter the effects of andropause and naturally increase your testosterone levels.
- http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/WeightManagement/Obesity/ Obesity-Information_UCM_307908_Article.jsp. Accessed 12/16/2014.
- http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/HeartAttackToolsResources/Heart-Attack-Risk-Assessment_UCM_303944_Article.jsp. Accessed 12/16/2014.
- JAMA. 1996 Dec 18;276(23):1904-6.
- Morgentaler, Abraham. “Destroying the myth about testosterone replacement and prostate cancer.” Life Extension. December 2008. Online version available at http://www.lef.org/Magazine/2008/12/Destroying-the-Myth-about-Testosterone-Replacement-Prostate-Cancer/Page-01.