Female menopause thankfully gets a lot of coverage these days, with a wealth of books and education available. However men go through a type of menopause too, and there is much less awareness about it. As with female menopause, understanding what’s happening hormonally can allow us to adapt and tweak our lifestyle to support the changes.
Here are 10 things you should know along with tips for healthy and happy navigation of male menopause.
When to expect male menopause
Unlike female menopause which has distinct stages and occurs in a relatively small window of time, male menopause (or andropause) is more subtle, with men usually becoming gradually aware of the symptoms. It generally becomes noticeable around the late 40s to early 60s.
How hormones change
For men, like women, levels of their sex hormones are declining, in this case testosterone, which plays a key role in maintaining muscle mass, sexual health, cognition and even confidence.
Unlike women, there isn’t a sudden drop-off, but rather testosterone production peaks for men in their 20s then declines at around 1% a year, which doesn’t sound a lot, but by your mid-50s testosterone levels could be 30 to 50% lower than in your 20s.
Changes you can expect during male menopause
What this means for the male body is that muscle starts to atrophy, we lose bone density, become more prone to laying down body fat and our libido can drop.
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How male menopause affects mood
Testosterone plays a role in confidence, which can dip and it also plays a role in the cognitive function you can experience brain fog and mood swings.
Stress, libido and weight gain
Our stress hormone cortisol is produced from the same “mother” hormone pregnenolone which also produces our DHEA which converts to testosterone.
What this means is that if we are stressed more pregnenolone is utilised in cortisol production, meaning there is less available to produce testosterone. This is why stress is often linked with low mood, weight gain, loss of focus and loss of libido.
What men can do to help
That’s the bad news, but we can work with our bodies to offset some of these negative effects. For men resistance training twice a week is key to preserve muscle mass and strength, you can do it at home but the gym is better.
Why? Well, lifting heavy with compound lifts stimulates short term testosterone production. So by hitting the weights regularly we can keep our baseline of testosterone higher for longer by continually “bumping” it up.
Not to mention you’ll look and feel better and studies link weight training with improved cognition and a decrease in conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Controlling the body fat and libido changes
To keep the body fat under control, boost fitness levels AND libido (yes really) short bursts of High Intensity Interval Training (15 to 20 minutes is enough) 2 to 3 times a week will do the job.
Research shows that the fitter you are as you age the less prone you are to incidences of erectile dysfunction, by a factor of almost 10 times…
How your diet can help
Just as for women a healthy diet can help. Limit processed foods, ensure carbohydrates don’t make up more than 50% of your diet, ensure they are the right kind (primarily leafy vegetables) and front load them in the day. Increase your lean protein intake as this stimulates leptin and will help you resist cravings (as well as helping those muscles maintain) and cut as much sugar as you can from your diet.
The importance of vitamins and minerals
Ensure you’re getting your vitamins and minerals. Vitamin D plays a role in testosterone production (as well as boosting our immune system) but we can only synthesise it via exposure to sunlight, so in winter particularly consider supplementing with this. Likewise, zinc plays a role in testosterone support too.
Stress, sleep and steps to stop you losing your rag
Get a handle on your stress and sleep! This is massive, if you take all the steps above but don’t get a handle on your stress you’ll only feel marginal results if any. A useful tool is the ABC model. A is for Activating Event (the stressor). B is your beliefs and C is the consequences of your beliefs and the event.
A is about bringing awareness to the stress response by realising you’re being triggered. We then skip to C which is how we react, which is driven by A and our beliefs, B.
If we can examine our beliefs around the event, we can perhaps see that they are unfounded and that we can in fact choose our reaction (C). Just remember ABC next time you’re stressed and by bringing awareness to it we can better choose our reaction and reframe our beliefs to lower our stress.
Male menopause can be challenging, but by bringing awareness to what’s happening we can bring compassion. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and discuss how you’re feeling with your partner or loved ones, so they can understand what’s happening for you too.
More about The Midlife Mentors
Claire and James, the Midlife Mentors, aim to shake up the way we think about our future and prepare people for menopause before it happens. They also help midlifers lose the belly fat, feel good naked and regain control of their lives – without making huge sacrifices.
Find them online at themidlifementors.com
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