The Disorder Doctors Miss: Male Menopause

Five signs you—or your guy—have it

Illustration by Justin Renninger

Steve is a 51-year-old sales manager who has been married to his wife Lisa for almost 25 years.  Born and raised in Philadelphia, he has been a huge sports enthusiast all of his life and played on both the baseball and football teams of his high school.  For the past six months, however, he has become less interested in sports—or really much of anything for that matter.  He has been “going through the motions” at work, feeling overly depleted when he gets home and then mostly sleeps.  He stopped working out, “I wasn’t getting anything out of it anyway,” he relayed, and he described his mood as “low” but there was no particular issue he was feeling sad or upset about.  He and Lisa had become more distant over these few months, and their physical relationship had waned to an occasional peck on the cheek.

The knee-jerk treatment prescribed for the set of symptoms described by Steve often is an anti-depressant, and sometimes that is exactly what is needed.  However, in Steve’s case, I was not convinced that primary depression was his problem, particularly because he lacked a previous history of it or any current acute stressors.  So, I ordered a battery of tests, and the underlying problem was revealed.

As we approach the middle decades of life, there is a decline in sex hormone production. For men, the fundamental issue is testosterone, and a lack of sufficient amounts can create a set of symptoms referred to as andropause (sometimes called “male menopause”).  After age 30, men gradually lose about 1% to 2% of their testosterone a year. However, the decline for some men is much greater, and to make matters worse, the testosterone-estrogen balance in the body can get disrupted, creating an even bigger problem.

Adequate testosterone levels are essential for sex drive, muscle and bone health, and generally feeling energetic and positive about life. Perhaps more importantly, testosterone is a marker for health and longevity. Studies also have shown that men with low testosterone levels have higher inflammation, a contributing factor for many diseases. The common signs of low testosterone or andropause are:

•    Low energy/ stamina

•    Decreased libido

•    Mood problems

•    Decreased muscle mass/ difficulty maintaining work-out results

•    Weight problems

Want to turn back the clock? Read Dr. Monti’s Three Male Vitality Boosters.

Dr. Monti is Director of the Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the author of “The Great Life Makeover”. Read more about him here.