Decreased libido, loss of bone mass, weight gain and hot flashes: all signs of menopause, even for men. You read right, that change in energy and even change in breast tissue isn’t entirely unique to aging women. Men also experience “the big change,” but in a less dramatic, less sudden kind of way.
It turns out that as we age, estrogen isn’t the only hormone that tapers off along the way. Testosterone, estrogen’s male counterpart, can be just as transient and just as tricky to understand.
As men age, the testosterone, (or just ‘T’) produced by their gonads begins to decrease and with that comes a decrease in muscle strength, sexual function and mood. Like menopause, these changes (sometimes referred to as andropause) can also create the sensation of hot flashes and even spur changes in breast tissue. Unlike menopause however, male breasts tend to swell, while female breasts lose volume and elasticity (an odd reversal of sorts).
Perhaps the main difference between menopause and the more medically termed, androgen decline in the aging male (ADAM), is the timing of whole process. In women, menopause occurs suddenly, being defined as the physiological changes that occur only 12 months after a woman’s last period. For men, this change is more gradual, spanning years, even decades.
This means that while women are quick to notice the drastic, sometimes alarming changes their bodies are going through, men tend to dismiss the symptoms, chalking them up to normal aging or some other chronic medical condition. And their doctors aren’t any better at diagnosing the problem.
One recent study from the British Journal of Urology International estimated that only about 50-percent of men over the age of 60 have a decrease in testosterone. If only half of all men go through this process, it’s easy to imagine that ADAM would be a difficult diagnosis to make.
Also, as the Mayo Clinic points out in an online male menopause summary, testosterone decreases at snail pace—about one percent per year after age 30. Even by 70 years old, a man might still have 50-percent of the testosterone he had as a 17-year old.