As men age, hormone levels gradually change. This is often referred to as "men"-opause or male menopause. While the term may be catchy, many people ask is male menopause is a myth? The reality is that experts agree (so far) that male menopause is a myth or at least isn't the same as menopause for women. However, men do experience imbalanced hormones and may need hormone therapy.
Male menopause or also called andropause, is the term used to describe a hormonal imbalance. As men age, critical hormones, such as testosterone, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), and human growth hormone (HGH), slowly decline. DHEA levels peak in adolescence and early adulthood, and by the time a man reaches his 40s, levels are significantly lower. It's estimated that men lose about 1% of testosterone per year after age 30. (1)
Menopause for women is a natural part of life and usually occurs in the late 40s and early 50s. It signals the end of a woman's ability to reproduce, and when this happens, she enters menopause. Menopausal symptoms, such as weight gain, night sweats, low sex drive, occur because of an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone (both essential sex hormones). Once this happens, bioidentical hormone therapy (BHT) is a way to find relief.
The key difference between male menopause and menopause for women is that levels of estrogen and progesterone plummet in 3-5 years for women, while testosterone, DHEA, and HGH decline over time for men. Although men can have a significant change in hormones all at once or even if the drop is slow, the levels may cause some serious health concerns.
If you suspect you have male menopause, the best way to diagnose low hormone levels of testosterone or DHEA is through a blood test. You can make an appointment with your doctor and request the bloodwork. In some cases, men don't have any symptoms or signs of low testosterone, so the low levels are not a concern.
However, you may have noticed signs or symptoms of low testosterone, including the following: (2, 3)
Emotional fluctuations: Low testosterone may have effects on your mood or well-being. Some men report feeling depressed or melancholy. At times, you may feel confident and secure, and in others, uncertain and unmotivated.
Sexual function changes: The most significant symptoms may be lower sexual libido. You may experience erectile dysfunction and infertility issues. Low testosterone may cause smaller testes.
Sleep problems: In some cases, low testosterone disrupts sleep by causing increased wake-ups or even insomnia. On the opposite end, you may feel sleepy throughout the day or more drowsy sleep at night.
Bodily changes: Some men report physical changes, such as more body fat, lower bone density, and less muscle strength. Men can have swollen breasts or gynecomastia and hair loss throughout the body.
Some of the signs and symptoms may have an underlying issue besides low testosterone. Sometimes depression, side effects from medicines, poor diet, too much alcohol use, and thyroid problems may lower testosterone.
Like hormonal imbalances for women, hormone therapy is a way to boost testosterone and DHEA.
Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is a type of BHRT. It replaces the missing hormones with natural ones. (4) The International Society of Sexual Medicine published a study that showed testosterone therapy for men improved bone density, reduced body fat, and elevated depressive symptoms. (5)
In a placebo-controlled study for 30-weeks, men with type-2 diabetes had an improvement in sexual function, including erectile dysfunction and increased sexual desire undergoing TRT. (6) In a 12-month administration of topical testosterone, men showed considerable improvement in sexual function for men with hypogonadism. (7)
For men considering TRT, there are different methods of administering the missing hormones. You can undergo daily testosterone injections, but there are topical testosterone creams that are painless and easy to apply.
If your testosterone levels are low, you may have low DHEA levels.
DHEA is a hormone like testosterone, but it's a precursor to testosterone. Due to its possible anti-aging qualities, some people call it the fountain of youth. It's produced in the adrenal gland, and some of the compounds change into testosterone naturally in the body. (8) However, if you have low DHEA levels, less testosterone may be the outcome.
Both hormones work harmoniously to build muscle, balance moods, improve cognition, and fight age. And, like testosterone, levels decrease as men age, making the connection between testosterone and DHEA even more critical. Low DHEA levels may cause depression, heart disease, and mortality. (9)
While a DHEA deficiency may cause health concerns, taking a DHEA supplement will increase levels. The result may be one or more of the following:
As men age, bones can become brittle and weak. According to science, there may be a link between low DHEA and weak bones. (10) If this is the case, taking a DHEA supplement long-term may help improve bone mass.
Some research shows that DHEA supplementation may decrease small amounts of fat for men with adrenal dysfunction. (11) However, men supplementing 7-Keto DHEA on a calorie-restricted diet lost three times more body fat than men on the same diet but not taking the hormone. (12)
DHEA may increase other essential health benefits, including:
While male menopause or "men"-opause may be an urban myth, it does have a scientific reality. Men, like women, can have low levels of essential hormones like testosterone and DHEA. When this occurs, it may cause serious health problems. If you suspect you have male menopause, speak with your doctor about testosterone and DHEA hormone therapy. It may just change your life.