Avoiding the Men’s Mid-Life Crisis
Low testosterone levels may sometimes be to blame for the physical and emotional challenges that aging men must face.
For many men, the midpoint in life brings a great deal of frustration and worry. It’s a period where men first begin to notice their bodies are slowing down. Unwanted physical and emotional changes begin to creep in. Combine these with a general lack of get-up-and-go, and it’s understandable that many grow moody or irritable trying to cope with this new reality.
Often referred to as a mid-life crisis, it used to be viewed purely as a psychological phenomenon, brought on by the realization that the man in question isn’t getting any younger. Traditional remedies, including getting a stylish haircut, adopting a more up-to-date wardrobe, or buying a sporty new car, reflect that way of thinking – cope with the problem by making superficial changes.
But we’ve always known there’s much more going on here than a new car can cure. Research tells us that there’s a scientific explanation as to why men are feeling tired and moody. And these findings have led to the development of medical treatments that aim to help them cope with this challenging phase in their lives.
What is low testosterone?
One of the reasons why some men may start to experience great physical changes at mid life is because their bodies are beginning to lose a vital hormone called testosterone. Testosterone levels, which begin to rise at puberty and peak around the age of 40, are responsible for the development of masculine physical features, such as facial and body hair, enlarged muscles, deeper voice and sexual maturity.
After 40, however, men naturally begin experiencing a decline in testosterone levels, with some reaching abnormally low levels of testosterone with accompanying symptoms, a condition that is called andropause. Because of the difficulties insufficient testosterone levels can cause, it’s important for men to educate themselves on what is happening during this phase of life as well as explore treatment options now available that help them cope with the severest symptoms.
Dr. Alvaro Morales, a urologist from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., is a leading expert on the cause and treatment of low testosterone in men. He describes testosterone loss as a “clinical and biochemical syndrome characterized by the progressive decline in the production of androgens in the aging male, which translates into the alteration of a number of bodily functions.”
This change, Dr. Morales explains, can manifest itself in a number of ways, especially physically, emotionally and sexually. On the physical front, it can lead to muscle aches, daytime fatigue and a decline in muscle mass. In some cases, osteoporosis can even develop. Emotionally, men with low testosterone may become more irritable and depressed or experience an overall lack of motivation. Sexually, they may suffer a lack of sexual drive, impotence or even erectile dysfunction.
Recognizing the symptoms
While andropause is now an accepted medical condition, estimating how many men live with it is very difficult. Studies vary, according to Dr. Morales, but he guesses that up to 50 percent of the male population could be affected. One of the problems is that the symptoms are not easy to recognize.
“The bodily and emotional changes that men experience may be happen for reasons other than low testosterone,” says Dr. Morales. “Plus, not all men show the same symptoms.”
That’s because testosterone loss occurs over a long periods of time at a gradual, almost imperceptible pace. Because symptoms are slow to develop, it’s not unusual for men who are experiencing them to simply attribute them to “getting old.” This is where the woman’s role becomes so important. She may be better able to observe the changes and can help explain to him what may be occurring. Together, the couple can determine if the emotional, sexual and physical symptoms are severe enough to warrant investigating treatment options.
If you have symptoms of low testosterone (see below), your first step should be a visit to your family doctor. He or she will ask you to provide a complete medical history as well as undergo a physical examination. Next, you’ll be asked to complete a screening questionnaire.
Once these steps are complete, you’ll take a blood test that measures your body’s testosterone levels. If the blood test confirms you have low testosterone, then it’s time to begin discussing the appropriate form of treatment.
Testosterone replacement treatment
Currently, there are four types of testosterone replacement therapies available:
- Transdermal patches
- The latest is a gel which is applied each morning.
The treatment you receive will depend on a number of factors, including convenience and your doctor’s experience of patient preference. Not every man is a candidate for testosterone therapy.
The goal of these treatments is to bring testosterone levels within the normal range, with the aim of improving the patient’s mood, restoring his energy levels and instilling in him a greater sense of well being. Other goals include improving muscle size and strength, strengthening bones and improving sexual desire. The length of treatment will differ for each man and Dr. Morales says the patient’s health during the treatment period is closely monitored.
Dr. Morales is also quick to point out that testosterone replacement therapy is not done to interrupt the natural aging process.
“Yes, aging is unavoidable and unpleasant,” he says. “But if there are things we can to make it more bearable, then we should look into them.”
Dr. Morales also stresses that family physicians are more that capable of recognizing and treating low testosterone. But because they have so many other conditions to monitor, men affected by low testosterone and their partners play an equally important role. By learning about the condition and becoming familiar with its symptoms, they are taking important steps toward securing the man’s overall sense of health and well-being as he travels through a difficult phase of life.
Common symptoms of low testosterone levels
- loss of muscle size and strength
- muscle aches
- increased waistline
- brittle bones
- decreased facial and body hair growth
- daytime tiredness
- low sex drive
- decreased quality of erections
- moodiness or sadness
- low self esteem
- irritability or quick to anger
- lack of motivation
- difficulty concentrating
This special sponsored feature was produced by the editors of CARPNews 50Plus in co-operation with Solvay Pharma Inc.