The changes men experience with aging sometimes mirror those experienced by women. Energy often ebbs, and that's no surprise, but what's with the night sweats, the belly fat that won't go away and (gasp) those breasts that are looking too much like a woman's? And then there's increased irritability, memory trouble, decreased libido and erection problems, indecision, and, sometimes, depression. Understandably, men attribute these and other symptoms to getting older, but many doctors believe, and studies are confirming, that the cause is often more than age alone. Found in men under age 45, these changes can be symptoms of "hypogonadism" (lower than functional levels of various hormones, including testosterone). When they develop as part of the normal aging process in many men, the more accurate term for an older population would be "hypogonadic syndrome" or "andropause." Estimates of its prevalence vary widely, ranging from a low of three million to as many as 19 or 20 million men age 45 or older.
Research has shown men between the ages of 18-25 only make 4-7 mg of testosterone per day!
Researchers were surprised by the finding of a recent study based on blood tests taken of 2,162 male patients age 45 or older who were making a standard visit to their primary care physician -- 38.7% had suboptimal levels of serum testosterone. (Though it should be noted that as men get older, this becomes a less reliable measure, due to natural changes that occur with aging.) Interestingly these men also had a higher incidence of history of hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. Given that the study specifically focused on average men, making a routine visit to their doctor, these findings are surprising. It is important to note that Solvay Pharmaceuticals, makers of a testosterone gel, provided funding for this multi-center study.
The reason men usually don't realize the extent of these changes is that they typically evolve slowly over time, and there is no clear marker for them (as there is for women whose periods become erratic and eventually came to a halt). Both genders experience hormone changes with age, but not in the same way. The gradual lowering of testosterone in men may eventually cause a shift toward estrogen, as body fat starts producing increasing amounts of it. When this occurs, it may cause enlarging breasts, night sweats, and, to some degree, excess abdominal fat.
But the imbalance is not just testosterone -- it's also related to other hormones, including estradiol, progesterone, DHEA, cortisol, thyroid, and adrenals. Men over 45 or so who show these symptoms should consider being evaluated for low functional testosterone and hormonal imbalance. Since hormones function in concert, not as disparate elements, it is important to check hormone levels before treatment. We look at as many hormones as we can to see how they are interacting and if they are balanced as a group.
The study mentioned above found a higher than expected incidence of high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity with low testosterone. Supplementing testosterone when clinically indicated has been shown to improve blood sugar regulation and reverse heart disease. Supplementation will also increase bone growth, increase lean muscle mass, improve mood and memory, improve energy, reduce cholesterol and improve libido.
Proper diet and a healthful lifestyle help all body systems to function better, giving men "the biggest bang for their buck in hormone treatment." Plenty of protein and avoidance of dairy products, alcohol and caffeine because even two cups of coffee can adversely affect DHEA production and two drinks a day can adversely affect testosterone levels. Regular exercise is also a must, but we recommend moderate exercise such as walking, hiking, yoga, swimming and biking, which is less taxing on the body, rather than intense forms of it.