The notion of a male menopause is not a new one, but it has failed to gain weight with a large percentage of the medical profession or, indeed, women. They scoff that if there were such a thing, the middle-aged male population would take to its collective bed and not be seen for years.
But there is a body of growing evidence to back up the fact that, though men don’t exactly go through a menopause, they experience hormonal changes that affect their health. And it’s got a name: the andropause.
So is it really like a male menopause?
“It’s not as acute as the female menopause,” says hormonal expert Dr Marion Gluck, named by Tatler as one of the top 250 private doctors in the UK. “Male hormone levels decrease slowly over a period of time, but it’s a slow decline. Unlike women, where hormone production stops, men still produce hormones, but at much lower levels.
“All the same, it affects them very strongly. We joke about the male midlife crisis but this is a sign of the andropause. They get depressed, start questioning their lives, and begin to lose their sex drive and motivation.
“It’s a form of depression. That’s one of the symptoms of the andropause.”
Testosterone deficiency causes a number of problems, including a decrease in muscular strength, a decline in the feeling of general wellbeing, joint pain, excessive sweating, sleep problems, anxiety and irritability. Some men are affected more than others.
“Hormones can help,” says Dr Gluck. “Unfortunately, many GPs wouldn’t think of testing your hormones, and would offer anti-depressants. But they should, just as they should test men for osteoporosis instead of being surprised that it occurs in men, too.
“When there is hormone deficiency, men most definitely need to be tested for osteoporosis and Vitamin D deficiency.
“We know all this science. If you haven’t got tread on your tyres you replace the tires rather than wait for an accident to happen. But often in the medical world, something has to break down before we do anything about it.
“We have to practise preventative medicine. We know what’s going to happen, but our health system is mainly focused on disease, not health.”
If her male patients have symptoms of low testosterone or low DHEA levels, Dr Gluck supplements them with bio-identical hormones. These are indistinguishable from the hormones the human body produces, being the same in molecular structure and efficacy as our own hormones. They are derived from natural sources such as Mexican yams or soy and converted into human hormones.
In addition to hormone therapy, Dr Gluck advises patients to examine all aspects of their lives and address any problematic areas: relationships, their professional lives and stress levels. It is essential to maintain an exercise regime, she says, as well as regulate your alcohol and food intake. And, most importantly, if men recognise any of the above symptoms in themselves, they should speak to their GP.
“Like they take a car for a check-up, they should take themselves for a very good MOT,” she says. “Healthy ageing is about our quality of life. We can age well and have energy and avoidance of age-related chronic disease. But we have to take responsibility for our health.”