Men don’t get menopause, but that doesn’t mean hormone levels in men don’t change over time. Many men experience a decline in testosterone, often called “andropause,” as they age. Men over 70 can have as little as half the levels of testosterone as they had at 30.
So what does this mean? Testosterone doesn’t have a direct effect on mood, energy level, and libido, and the decline is slow and gradual, starting in middle age, so the change—if any—may not even be noticeable. What change there is many people attribute simply to “aging,” not realizing that it has a specific cause.
Signs of lowered testosterone include:
- Lower libido, erectile dysfunction, and possibly infertility
- Changes in sleep patterns, either insomnia or sleepiness
- Muscle weakness and reduced endurance and bulk
- Increased body fat—the famous “middle-aged spread”
- Depression and lessened motivation
Not all of these are dangerous in and of themselves. However, they are likely to be undesirable, and many men look for a solution for that reason.
These changes may not be due to natural decline in testosterone. Some of them can be caused by thyroid problems, alcohol use, medication, and what doctors call “insult accumulation,” the effect on the body of a lifetime of illnesses, injuries, and general wear and tear. Your doctor can do a blood test to determine if your testosterone levels are low.
If you have experienced a significant testosterone decline, there are some steps you can take. You can’t boost your body’s natural testosterone production, but you can counteract the effects. Exercise and a healthy diet will help you maintain muscle tone. Remember that there is no shame in seeking help for depression. Most importantly, be honest with your doctor.
While testosterone replacement therapy is available, its benefits are doubtful and unproven. Moreover, there is some evidence that it can increase your risk of prostate cancer, as can herbal supplements containing DHEA. Herbal supplements in general have not been proven effective at countering the effects of lowered testosterone.