Society and pop culture have taught us that aging comes with hormone-related consequences for both men and women. Do you know what they are?
You may be somewhat familiar with female menopause and its broader symptoms, the result of the end of ovulation and a steep decline in hormone production.
You may have also heard of the term “male menopause” or discussion about androgen vs. testosterone therapy. What should you know about these topics as you age?
First of all, the term “male menopause” is a misnomer. Although some men experience a decrease in testosterone and androgen levels as they age, it proves very different from female menopause.
For one, the drop in hormone levels takes place gradually rather than drastically as with women. What’s more, you don’t see the same hormone deficiencies in all men. Instead, they accompany other health-related issues.
Keep reading to find out more about testosterone vs. androgen decline and what you can do about it.
What Is Androgen?
Androgens are the hormones that give males their masculine qualities. Number one on the list of these hormones is testosterone, produced mainly in the testes.
The testes are, in turn, controlled by the pituitary gland, and the part of the brain known as the hypothalamus regulates the pituitary.
At this point, you may still be asking yourself, “What are androgens?” Let’s explore the function of these essential sex hormones more deeply.
Think of hormones as chemical messengers. These hormones stimulate tissues in the body to make specific changes required for processes necessary to well-being, reproduction, and growth.
Androgens, such as testosterone, impact bone development, muscle growth, and metabolism. Androgens also play a critical role in sperm production, prostate growth and function, and sexual function and libido.
Androgens are essential to reproductive function and male sexuality. They also stimulate secondary sexual characteristics such as body hair, facial hair, and voice change.
Male Hormone Decline and Its Effect on You
Let’s get this point out of the way right now. Hormone changes over time do not represent a natural process of aging for men.
How do we know this? Because some males never experience this decline.
Loss of male hormones accompanies other health problems, a process often referred to as:
- Testosterone deficiency syndrome
- Late-onset male hypogonadism
- Androgen deficiency
No matter what you call it, these changes can leave you feeling tired and overweight. They can also lead to emotional issues such as decreased self-confidence and trouble remembering or concentrating.
Physicians have grouped these symptoms into the following categories:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Physical changes
- Emotional changes
- Changes in sexual function
Let’s take a closer look at what the symptoms above include. As you read on, think about how many of these symptoms you may be currently experiencing.
Physical Symptoms to Watch For
Recognizable symptoms and signs of decreased hormones include changes to your sleep pattern. For example, some men complain of sleep disturbances or insomnia.
These problems with getting a good night’s sleep can contribute to a general sense of sleepiness throughout the day.
Physical changes associated with a loss of androgen, or more specifically testosterone, include increased weight gain and reduced muscle bulk. It can also lead to decreases in physical strength and bone density.
Studies continue to emerge about associations between low testosterone and type 2 diabetes (T2DM). Although the research remains controversial, some doctors theorize that low testosterone levels can lead to insulin resistance.
Some men also report gynecomastia (tender or swollen breasts), loss of body hair, and waning energy. In rare cases, men may even experience “hot flashes.”
Emotional and Psychological Impacts fo Hormone Deficiency
Patients also “feel” the consequences of low testosterone and androgen deficiency. It can translate into less confidence and motivation. Some men also experience sadness and depression.
Other individuals report a general decrease in memory and concentration. All of these symptoms of hormone imbalance can feel devastating to the person experiencing them.
Loss of male hormones can also lead to less sexual desire, fewer spontaneous erections, and erectile dysfunction (ED). Your testes may shrink in size, and infertility becomes an issue for some individuals.
Androgen vs. Testosterone
As patients age, they may have questions about why they’re not feeling as good as they used to. They may feel confused by terms such as androgen and testosterone and wonder how they relate to their health and state of mind.
But age isn’t the only reason men may see a reduction in androgens. Younger men also experience these devastating repercussions of androgen deficiency.
Androgens are sex hormones. As we’ve already covered, these hormones give men their “male” characteristics. Among the most famous androgens is testosterone.
When levels of androgens get too low, particularly testosterone, many negative impacts result. Issues with the hypothalamus, testes, or pituitary gland can lead to a decrease in androgens.
Fortunately, hormone replacement therapy can treat androgen deficiency.
Other Factors Associated with a Decrease in Hormones
Besides issues with the hypothalamus, testes, and pituitary gland, other factors that can lead to a decrease in hormone production include:
- Medication side effects
- Excessive alcohol use
- Thyroid problems
- Obstructive sleep apnea
Before assuming you’re experiencing hormone imbalance, you should consult your physician to discuss your symptoms and medical history. They can also help you determine if there’s an underlying cause for your hormone deficiency.
Once the condition gets identified and treated, this intervention may lead to a return to normal hormone levels. Your doctor will be able to evaluate possible causes for your symptoms and then provide treatment options.
When You’re Not Feeling Your Best
Now you have a deeper understanding of testosterone vs. androgen and what fluctuating levels of each hormone can do to your health and well-being. Let’s move on to some action steps you can take right now if you’re not feeling your best.
Following these recommendations won’t boost your natural hormone production, but they will put you on the fast-track to getting some answers.
Start by being honest with your doctor. Yes, it can feel embarrassing to talk about your loss of sexual desire or breast tenderness, but you can’t expect to get help if you don’t have an open discussion.
Work with your doctor to identify health issues that might contribute to your symptoms. These problems could include erectile dysfunction, other sexual issues, or medication side effects.
Simple Ways to Age Well as a Male
What’s more, even something as simple as what you eat can have a significant impact on your hormone levels. For one, did you know that a low-carb diet can make male hormones nosedive? Or, that sugar makes testosterone tank?
Check out 14 more foods and diet choices with similar negative impacts.
This focus on diet leads to our second point. Moving forward, it’s time to start making healthy lifestyle choices. After all, obesity can lead to lower androgen levels, too.
So, now’s the time to start eating a healthy diet and incorporating plenty of physical activity into your daily routine. As you age, it becomes imperative that you work hard to maintain lean muscle mass, strength, and energy.
Regular exercise also helps when it comes to better sleep and improved mood.
You should pay close attention to your mood and emotions. While depression can feel overwhelming from an emotional and mental standpoint, it also has strong associations with physical conditions.
Symptoms related to hormone decrease include anxiety, irritability, fatigue, and anger.
If you’re feeling sad, depressed, or contemplating self-harm, you need to seek help immediately. Many effective treatments exist, and you owe it to yourself to find out what’s going on so that you can get your life back.
Okay, let’s say you’re experiencing some or many of the symptoms above. What’s the next step?
Diagnosing Androgen Deficiency
When you visit your physician, they’ll take a closer look at several different factors in your life indicative of a hormonal deficiency. These include:
- Blood tests
- Physical examination
- Other tests
Blood tests can help to determine the level of testosterone in your blood. For the test, you’ll need to get blood drawn while fasting. So, we recommend scheduling lab work first thing in the morning.
The morning also represents the peak release time for testosterone. To accurately measure your levels, have your testosterone levels checked on two separate mornings. What’s more, pituitary gland levels should also be considered.
A physical examination can also yield valuable information about the current state of your hormones. A thorough examination should include measuring the size of the testicles as well as looking for breast development.
Analyzing Your Medical History
Besides blood work and a physical exam, your doctor should ask questions related to your medical history. These questions will include details about:
- Sexual function
- Symptoms of androgen deficiency
- Other medical problems
- Medication and drug use (prescribed and non-prescribed)
Other tests your doctor may order include blood tests to check iron levels, DNA testing to check for underlying genetic conditions (e.g., Klinefelter’s syndrome), semen analysis, and MRI scans of the brain to further examine the pituitary gland.
Treatment of Androgen Deficiency
After administering the tests above, your doctor will make a determination about whether or not hormone therapy (or, testosterone therapy replacement), is right for you.
Testosterone therapy replacement (TRT) can be given via injections, skin creams, or skin gels. Some of these treatments are short-term, while others have longer-lasting impacts.
How your physician chooses to address your hormonal deficiency depends on your stage in life. For example, if you’re trying to father a child and learn that your pituitary gland is causing the problem, you may receive gonadotrophin injections.
You’ll get these shots a few times per week for many months. They stimulate the production of testosterone and sperm and could remedy your current challenges with fertility.
That said, your doctor will counsel you to avoid testosterone treatment as this acts as a powerful contraceptive. How? By suppressing the pituitary hormones that stimulate sperm production.
What’s your best bet if you face male hormone decline and want to have a baby? Consult a fertility specialist.
If reproduction is not an issue for you, then your doctor may recommend testosterone replacement therapy. Once you begin treatments, you’ll need to follow up with your doctor regularly.
In rare cases, testosterone replacement therapy can lead to some side effects, including mild acne, increased aggression, and weight gain. Again, working with a physician will minimize the potential for these adverse effects.
Don’t Let Androgen Deficiency Negatively Impact Your Life
Among the number one myths perpetuated by the media today is the concept that “male menopause” is a real and inevitable phenomenon. Truth be told, some men never experience a significant decline in the production of androgens.
A variety of healthy lifestyle practices can help you keep your androgen and, more specifically, testosterone levels optimal. Research continues to demonstrate that androgen deficiency represents a symptom of other medical factors and issues.
Nonetheless, if you’re experiencing hormone issues (whether in the form of depression weight gain, fatigue, erectile dysfunction, or something else), you owe it to yourself to consult a physician.
Take Back Your Life and Your Future
Through a series of tests, your physician will be able to diagnose your condition and then provide safe alternatives to get you back on the road to feeling like your best self.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming “male menopause” is a natural part of life. It isn’t.
It’s time to get androgen deficiency under control and take back your life and your future. Contact us to learn more about androgen vs. testosterone, TRT options, and other ways to address hormone deficiency in men.