As both males and females start to age, their bodies go through natural changes that are part of that process. One of the common ones they share is changing hormone levels. In women, rapidly changing hormone levels lead to a natural conclusion: menopause. Hormone changes in men come on much more gradually. In fact, it can take decades for these changes to show significant effects on men. Some men develop symptoms that can have effects on their mental, physical, psychological, and mental health. Anyone, male or female, who is dealing with these types of issues need to look for help.
There are two hormone changes in men that seem to have the most profound effects: testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone.
- Testosterone is the hormone that most people associate with men. It is a steroid hormone secreted from the male testes. At puberty, it helps develop typical male sexual characteristics like increased muscle and body mass as well as growth of body hair. Around age 30, the natural amounts of testosterone start to decline. That gradual loss brings on a wide range of symptoms, including, but certainly not limited to, low sex drive, fatigue, muscle mass loss, erectile dysfunction, depression, irritability, and increasing abdominal fat.
- Dehydroepiandrosterone is another steroid hormone, also known as DHEA. It is a precursor hormone to testosterone and other hormones. It is a common supplement used by body builders to help build muscle mass. It also has effects on cardio and heart health. As the amounts of DHEA naturally decrease with age, it also leads to lower levels of testosterone, estrogen, and other hormones.
These natural hormone changes in men are very subtle. For example, when testosterone begins to decline around age 30, the amount of hormone decrease averages about 1% each year (or 10% each decade). That very gradual shift often shows no symptoms or effects in most men. However, around 20 to 30 percent of men show different symptoms that some medical professionals call “andropause” or “male menopause.”
As early as the 1940s, medical researchers identified symptoms associated with these hormone changes in men. These symptoms were similar to women’s menopause in some cases: fatigue, insomnia, hot flashes, sweating, low sex drive, depression, and loss of memory. These symptoms seem to go away when the patient receives replacement testosterone. Some doctors question whether male menopause is a valid diagnosis. Yet, many men have experienced these symptoms due to shifting hormone levels.