Male Menopause Happens -- Just Not Very Often

Cristen Conger

A few weeks ago on Stuff Mom Never Told You, Molly and I discussed andropause, better known as male menopause. The condition is characterized by an age-related drop in testosterone levels in some men, leading to symptoms such as decreased sex drive and bone density loss. As we learned from the Mayo Clinic, men's testosterone levels begin to drop at a rate of around 1 percent per year at 30 years old, and a 70-year-old man may produce barely half the testosterone than he did in his youth.

Doctors have criticized the 'male menopause' title, however, given that while all women eventually go through menopause, andropause only occurs in a small subset of men. According to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, male menopause only occurs in about 2 percent of the older male population. The medical researchers also isolated the symptoms of male menopause (as defined by an age-related testosterone decline) for the first time, eliminating certain symptoms of classic hypogonadism (low testosterone production) including sleep problems and bad circulation.

The study press release added that "even with the nine rigorously selected symptoms, differences in testosterone levels between symptomatic and non-symptomatic men were marginal, highlighting the weak overall association between symptoms and testosterone levels."

But considering that testosterone therapy for older American men has spiked 400 percent since 1999, it makes you wonder whether doctors are treating the wrong condition. For instance, in addition to old age, lowered testosterone level is correlated with poor general health and obesity. So perhaps instead of pumping up American men with more testosterone, doctors ought to pay more attention to lifestyle and dietary habits.

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