Male Menopause: Myth or Reality?
Let's see ... there's Sasquatch, Area 51, the Loch Ness Monster, unicorns, male menopause, the free lunch, leprechauns ... hold it! Back up a bit ... male menopause? OK, before we kick Bigfoot to the curb, let's take a closer look at what many health professionals conclude is a male myth.

Male menopause is a term sometimes used to describe decreasing levels of the hormone called testosterone as men age. Female menopause and so-called male menopause are two different situations, however. In women, ovulation ends and hormone production plummets during a relatively short period of time. In men, hormone production declines more gradually. The effects -- such as changes in sexual function, energy level or mood -- tend to be subtle and may go unnoticed for years.

So what's the best way to refer to so-called male menopause? Many doctors use the term "andropause" to describe aging-related hormone changes in men. Other terms for so-called male menopause include testosterone deficiency, androgen deficiency of the aging male and late-onset hypogonadism, according to doctors at The Mayo Clinic.

Get to Know Your Hormones

Mayo Clinic researchers note that testosterone levels can vary greatly among men. In general, however, older men tend to have lower testosterone levels than do younger men. Testosterone levels gradually decline throughout adulthood - about 1 percent a year after age 30 on average. By about age 70, the decrease in a man's testosterone level can be as much as 50 percent.

Still, it's important to have a thorough medical evaluation before attributing low testosterone to normal aging. Left untreated, various medical conditions - such as obstructive sleep apnea - may decrease testosterone levels.

Are You 'Menopausing?'

Some men have a lower than normal testosterone level without signs or symptoms. For others, low testosterone may cause the following:

  • Changes in sexual function. This may include reduced sexual desire and fewer spontaneous erections. Your testes may become smaller as well.".

  • Changes in sleep patterns. Sometimes low testosterone causes insomnia or other sleep disturbances.

  • Physical changes. Various physical changes are possible, including increased body fat, reduced muscle bulk and strength, and decreased bone density.

  • Emotional changes. Low testosterone may contribute to a decrease in motivation or self-confidence. You may feel sad or depressed, or have trouble concentrating or remembering things.

What You Can Do

If you suspect that you have a low testosterone level, consult your doctor to be evaluated for possible causes, signs, symptoms and treatment options. Experts at the Mayo Clinic say you can't boost your natural testosterone production, but offer these steps:

  • Be honest and work with your doctor to identify and treat any health issues that may be causing or contributing to your signs and symptoms -- from medication side effects to erectile dysfunction and other sexual issues.

  • Make healthy lifestyle choices. Eat a healthy diet and include physical activity in your daily routine. Regular physical activity can even improve your mood and concentration and promote better sleep.

  • Seek help if depressed. Depression in men can make you feel irritable, isolated and withdrawn. Other signs of depression common in men include working excessively, drinking too much alcohol, using street drugs or seeking thrills from risky activities.