By: Ainsley Laing
Copyright (c) 2006 Ainsley Laing
How often have you heard someone say "It's just a mid life crisis"?
Nowadays, the terms mid life crisis and male menopause seem to be popular explanations for odd behaviors exhibited by the men over 40. Are they the same thing? And what in the world is andropause?
Admittedly, there does seem to be a number of men who begin to act strangely in their 40s and 50s. Many a Hollywood movie has been based on this theme for sure.
I experienced this with my previous partner of many years. It started insidiously. Sometime after he turned 40, I started noticing some attitude and behavior changes.
First, he started questioning whether to change a job which he always had enjoyed before. Over the next few years he began to exercise MUCH more, seemed preoccupied, irritable and more competitive. Then, it accelerated with strange manners of dress, excessive drinking, bar hopping, infidelity and finally leaving the family.
Was it just marital unhappiness, general midlife funk, depression and/or hormonal changes that caused this? Could it really be hormonal?
What Are the Scientists Saying?
More and more the medical community and men themselves are acknowledging that something is going on. Research shows us that men do experience hormonal changes starting in midlife which include gradual loss of testosterone, DHEA, HGH and adrenal hormones, an increase in the proteins that bind to testosterone (making it unavailable) and aromatase which converts testosterone to estrogen. Unlike women, where menopausal changes are pretty abrupt, men's changes happen over a period of years generally between the ages of 40 and 55. The effects and symptoms are hard to quantify because they are psychological in addition to physiological. Often evidence is anecdotal: men report feeling different.
There is a wide variation in the changes in healthy men so the symptoms will range from very little to extreme enough to use hormone replacement therapy. Some of the typically reported conditions related to reductions in androgens (male hormones) are:
• Low sex drive
• Emotional, psychological and behavioral changes
• Decreased muscle mass
• Loss of muscle strength
• Increased upper and central body fat
• Osteoporosis or weak bones and back pain
• Cardiovascular risk
Now, earlier I discussed that as a man ages his body begins to convert more testosterone into estradiol (estrogen). Too much estrogen in a man's body is not a good thing because estrogen negates testosterone. So, some men with normal levels of testosterone will still have symptoms of andropause because the testosterone:estrogen ratios in the body are whacky.
What Can You Do About It?
1) Stay Strong and Lean
So how to keep testosterone high and estrogen low? Keep yourself strong and lean. Why? Fat cells contain aromatase – the guys that convert testosterone to estrogen. More fat cells = more estrogen. This is true for women too!
Building and maintaining muscle mass requires free testosterone, so building and maintaining muscle mass trains the body to use testosterone efficiently.
So, the idea behind slowing down the effects of diminishing testosterone would be to increase or at least maintain muscle mass and bone density while keeping the heart strong and fat away.
Hmmm, this looks like the goal of any good fitness and nutrition program. That's good news!
2) Watch What Goes Into Your Body
Zinc, Alcohol and some Prescription Drugs. Zinc inhibits the actions of aromatase in the body. Getting adequate levels of zinc from the diet is important to keep estrogen levels down. Zinc is also important for the manufacture of testosterone by the body. Foods rich in zinc include meat, poultry, dairy, nuts, beans and whole grain foods.
Alcohol drives estrogen levels up. Since the liver helps excrete hormones and chemicals from the body anything that diminishes liver function results in higher estrogen levels.
Some prescription drugs can mess with hormone levels. It's a good idea to check this out with your doctor if you feel you are having some symptoms related to lowered testosterone.
3) Listen to Other People
Men, if you are over 40, and a family member or friend says that you are acting out of character, talk to your doctor about it. It might not be "her hormones"….it might be YOURS!!
Sources: http://www.menstuff.org/issues/byissue/andropause.html http://www.andropause.com http://www.midlife-passages.com/hormone.htm http://www.andropausecanada.com/when.php
About the Author:
Ainsley Laing, MSc. has been a Fitness Trainer for 25 years and writes exclusively Body for Mind eZine. She holds certifications in Group Exercise, Sports Nutrition and Person Fitness Training. Read other articles by Ainsley at http://www.bodyformind.com .
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