Andropause: What is it and how do you handle it?

While we have all heard of menopause, few of us are aware of a subject that remains taboo to this day: Andropause. It is a normal process that men experience from the age of 50 on average and of which we should be aware when deciding, as we become more aware of our biological clock, the appropriate time in our lives to have children.

What is andropause?

It all starts with testosterone, which is a hormone produced in the testicles and adrenal glands that helps promote secondary sex characteristics such as muscle and bone mass, body hair, and the development of male reproductive tissues. Taking this into account, andropause is a normal process during the adulthood of men that usually occurs between the ages of 50 and 70 (sometimes even a little earlier) and brings with it a series of alterations related to the decrease in the levels of testosterone and the malfunctioning of the testosterone receptors. 

It is not a secret to anyone that as we age our physical capacities decrease and even our organs begin to function in a different way. Of course, this depends on several factors, including not only genetics, but also the lifestyle we have led.

Unlike women, men do not have such marked cycles or such significant losses at the time of entering climacteric. This is because men’s sexual activity is not punctuated by regular periods as is the case with women, but instead they can reproduce at any time, in addition to having a constant production of sperm cells. Thus, the adult male does not usually present fertility problems during a specific period of time, as is the case with women, but rather it is a progressive process in which the symptoms become more evident as the years go by.

Even if it’s not too much of a big deal these days, it’s not something you should ignore since this so-called Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome can have major implications for both the physical and psychological health of men.

What are the symptoms?

Since there is no well-defined period, specialists prefer to use the term late-onset hypogonadism, which implies a lower production of testosterone in old age that gradually develops. Some of the most common symptoms are:

– Attitude and mood changes

– Fatigue and energy loss

– Decrease or loss of libido and sex drive

– Erection problems

– Weight gain

– Bone deterioration

– Loss of muscle mass

– Change in sleep patterns 

– Memory loss and difficulty concentrating

– Irritability and nervousness

– Depression

– Circulatory problems

Although this list is not exhaustive, it is sufficient to show the important changes that a person can undergo during this process. 

If you have any of these symptoms, do not hesitate to contact your doctor and ask if you need a testosterone test to get a more accurate diagnosis. Remember that this is not an illness but rather a natural period of transition.

What causes andropause?

While the exact causes are not entirely defined, there are certain factors that certainly contribute to the evolution of this condition. Beginning primarily with the body’s natural aging, the list also includes stress, consumption of alcohol and certain medications, obesity, certain types of infections, hereditary factors, a history of cardiovascular disease, and hormonal deficiencies such as elevated levels of SHBG (also known as sex hormone binding globulin)

What we know today leads us to think that the reduction in testosterone concentration and production is rather linked to each individual’s particular factors and medical history, which will make its magnitude and timing depend on it as well. 

It is estimated that from the age of 40 there is an annual loss of 1 to 2% of testosterone, and by the age of 70, this loss can be more than 30%.  What happens is that testosterone influences a lot of functions in the male body, not only in the sexual organs, but also in the bones, muscles, skin and hair. Also, this hormone is related to the balance of cholesterol and hemoglobin levels, so it is normal to experience limb numbness and even frequent dizziness. It is clearly an important change in the adult man and should be treated and understood well in advance.

Can it be prevented or are there ways to treat it?

Indeed, today testosterone supplements and testosterone replacement therapies are available and can help you with the symptoms. These treatments will help you mainly in the improvement of symptoms related to sexuality, mood, cognitive function and anemia. They also vary in their route of administration, ranging from injections to granules, patches and gels.

Remember that andropause can also be a process with some psychological implications, since the person is facing a grieving process from his younger self. Existential crises, anxiety and feelings of uncertainty can arise. So it’s important to consider having professional help that can assist you in managing your mental health, especially when depressive moods are present.

It’s not an issue we can just ignore and postpone for later in our lives. Being aware as of today can help you to develop a better quality of life instead of taking late actions that can generate more complex problems.

How does it affect me if I want to have children¿

No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to start engaging in a better life hygiene that will allow you to delay the arrival of andropause. Avoid stress, maintain a balanced diet, try to get adequate rest, reduce your intake of toxic substances and stay active.

If you are young, but for personal reasons or choices you feel it is not yet time to have children, you can always count on options such as sperm cryopreservation (which means “freezing your sperm”). This will allow you to preserve the fertility that you may lack later in life through the use of assisted reproduction techniques. 

If you are already at an older age, you can use one of the testosterone treatments listed above. As you can see, all hope is not lost. They will help you retain your sexual drive and reproductive ability longer so you can succeed by means of natural insemination. 

Likewise, if you have not yet had children, either because your partner is in menopause or because you decided to remain single but still want to have them, then you can undergo one of these treatments and eventually resort to alternative mechanisms for that purpose, such as surrogacy or voluntary co-parenting. Today there are tools like Coparentalys that can allow you to get in touch with other people who, like yourself, want to find alternative ways to build their families, but for various reasons cannot do it in the traditional way. 

While becoming a parent at 50 can be a challenge, you’re not alone. In the end, age is relative and the desire to build a family is more than just a number. No one knows how long they will live, so instead of comparing yourself to other generations, keep in mind that what is important is the family project you so desire, the experience and stability you can bring to the table, and the well-being of the person who will be born. While a man’s age is a factor, it is not a radical sentence that will prevent him from achieving your dreams of having a child. You still have a chance to put the odds in your favor.