Change may be good, but when it comes to menopause or andropause (male menopause), change can be a serious bump in the road.
There are two different ways to approach aging and the cumulative changes it brings. First, aging causes changes in hormone levels. Or, changes in hormone levels cause aging.
The second approach would look at aging and the transitional periods for both men and women as a condition that can be treated.
For generations, men and women accepted “the change” with resignation. Like the reverse of puberty, moving from a reproductive mode to a non-, or less-reproductive mode, menopause was a fact of life. It was rumored that men went through a similar change, but the term “andropause” isn’t even a recognized phrase outside the medical community today, much less a “Hot Topic” on The View. Today, it’s possible to lessen the symptoms or to restore hormones to a more functional level.
If you decide to take this path, using Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and other hormonal treatments, be sure to do your homework, explore all the possibilities and work with a trusted physician. We know from recent medical news that estrogen replacement therapies are related to other risks.
The official definition of menopause is the final menstrual period, confirmed after the woman has missed her period for 12 consecutive months. The ovaries release lower levels of estrogen and other hormones. The signs begin as early as six years or more before that last period and are described as perimenopause. Women who have had a hysterectomy and removal of the ovaries or other medical procedures or treatments experience induced menopause. Their symptoms and subsequent treatments are different than women who face natural menopause.
If that was all there was to it, the end of ovulation and menstrual periods, there would be little fuss. It’s all the accompanying changes that make menopause difficult for many women. Some have no noticeable signs or “symptoms” during the perimenopause phase. Others experience hot flashes, difficulty sleeping and vaginal dryness. Some have the same kinds of mood swings and loss of concentration young girls experience during puberty. Risk for heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis increases after menopause. Hormone therapy can relieve menopause-related symptoms and decrease the long-term risks through menopause and beyond.
Estrogen therapy has been used for over 50 years and is available in a variety of types, delivery systems and dosage strengths.
Progesterone can be used alone to treat symptoms like hot flashes or to counter estrogen dominance caused by fluctuating levels during perimenopause.
Combined estrogen-progesterone therapy or regimes include taking the two hormones separately or through a combination product.
In 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative trial revealed that hormone therapy using conjugated equine estrogens (Premarin and Prempro) increased the risk of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. The average age of the study group was 62, significantly older than the age physicians normally start the therapies. Since the study involved a group using the therapy and a placebo group, the older women were chosen because they were well into post-menopause and did not have obvious symptoms like hot flashes that would have revealed which group was on the placebo and which was not. However, following the release of the study, there was a significant drop in Premarin and Prempro prescriptions. During the six, 12 and 18 months following the study, there was also a 15-percent drop in new breast cancer diagnoses.
To further confuse the issue of hormone therapy, human forms of estrogen and progesterone, called bioidentical hormones, do not indicate the same risks associated with the equine products. Talk to your doctor, an OB/GYN or other specialist, to determine if the risk/benefit ratio is acceptable.
Men don’t have hot flashes as their testosterone levels decrease, probably because hormone levels peak at adolescence and the decline is gradual, covering decades. We used to call odd behavior in men between the ages of 40 and 55 a mid-life crisis. Now we know there’s a medical explanation. The signs of andropause parallel what we once considered simply part of the aging process: decrease in strength and endurance, lack of energy, grumpiness, decreased libido, loss of height, weight gain, etc. Testosterone replacement therapies have been shown to improve all of the above as well as a potential decrease in the risk of heart disease.
While ED, the inability to develop or maintain an erection, is not directly related to andropause, or decreased testosterone, ED and its causes are often age-related.
Causes range from drug side effects to medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, prostrate cancer surgery and vascular conditions that effect blood flow to the penis. Smokers also have a higher incidence of ED.
The good news is that ED is treatable, either by addressing the underlying causes or directly. The first step is an accurate diagnosis of the cause.
Physiologically, an erection is a hydraulic mechanism based on blood entering and being retained in the penis. There are various ways this can be impeded and most are treatable. Viagra was the first oral treatment, followed by Levitra and Cialis. Depending on the treatment, the pill is taken from 20 minutes to one hour before sex and is effective for three to 36 hours.
Technically, ED is a condition in a man who wants to be sexually effective. Low testosterone levels or psychological issues generally produce a lack of desire, which leads us back to menopausal women suffering from lowered libido. There’s also a cure for that in the form of testosterone creams and other hormonal ointments applied to the genitals.
If you’re wondering what sex has to do with extending life or anti-aging, it’s been clinically proven that a healthy, active sex life does, indeed, extend life. Even if it didn’t, it certainly factors into the quality of life.