Getting old can at times be a bummer for most anyone, and men are not immune from the physical, psychological and even emotional downturns that come with age.
Some of these are the same guys who perhaps a few years earlier joked (very discreetly, we hope for their sake) about the trials and tribulations women dealt with going through menopause. But as many of us now know so well in 2015, once a man turns 45 or 50, it's his turn to look in the mirror and search for that lost smile, realizing that even if his days of steadily diminished "manhood" aren’t here yet, they likely aren't far away.
Who's laughing now?
At the core of factors determining a man's state of vitality are testosterone levels, which typically peak during adolescence and early adulthood, as described by mayoclinic.org, and then it's a gradual downhill slide from there. One common rule among health care professionals: after the age of about 30 to 40, a man's testosterone level declines at a rate of about 1 percent a year.
That's a source of concern to men because the hormone, produced mainly in the testicles, plays a key role in helping a man maintain bone density, muscle strength and mass, facial and body hair, sperm production and sex drive – as well as other factors that shape a dude's self-esteem.
Once the testosterone level starts tanking, men can start experiencing erectile dysfunction, loss of sexual desire and fewer spontaneous erections, says medicalnewstoday.com. Also watch out for hot flashes and emotional changes such as eroding motivation, loss of self-confidence, sleep disturbances and mood swings.
Is it any wonder that experiencing "low-T," which males obviously like to keep on the "QT," sounds an awful lot like a certain female condition that usually signals her childbearing days are done. Low-T symptoms can also include depression, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, swollen or tender breasts and increased body fat. Of course, any or all of those signs could be caused by something else, but the wise thing is to not make assumptions: talk it over with your physician.
If your health care professional determines you have a genuine Low-T problem – to include taking multiple measurements of his or her patient's testosterone level at different parts of the day, then it might be time to do something. One possible diagnosis could be a disease known as hypogonadism, in which the body can't produce normal amounts of testosterone because of issues with either the testicles or the pituitary gland, which controls the testicles, says mayoclinic.org.
Increasingly, men are proactively doing something about Low-T; presumably, once it has been properly diagnosed: testosterone replacement therapy. It has become a male heath care rage of the 21st century. Ten years ago, men of the world swept the need for this sort of thing under the rug. They did this for preservation of self-esteem in one respect, denial of a chink in the manhood armor in the other.
Times have changed, and many more men are coming forward in hordes seeking treatment. Some don't even really have Low-T: they want to feel more alert, energetic and sexually functional.
Being tired, on its own, shouldn't merit a testosterone prescription, says Harvard Men's Health Watch. "General fatigue and malaise is pretty far down my list," says Dr. Michael O'Leary, a urologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. "But if they have significant symptoms, they'll need to have a lab test. In most men the testosterone level is normal."
Low testosterone can be treated by several methods: those singled out by webmd.com include intramuscular injections given weeks apart; a testosterone patch worn on the body, to include placement on the scrotum; oral tablets; testosterone gel applied to the skin or inside the nose; a long-acting implant beneath the skin surface; or a testosterone stick, applied much like underarm deodorant. Non-prescription aids can include nutritional supplements.
Like with most any form of medication, however, there are possible side effects; these can range from worsening sleep apnea or acne to decreased testicular size and stimulation of prostate tissue, possibly accompanied by increased urination symptoms such as weaker stream or frequency. Of particular note: Low-T treatments could increase the risk of stroke or heart attack, webmd.com says, although studies on cardiovascular risk have had mixed results.
Still, Low-T treatment is serious business, preferably not done merely for reasons of vanity. It's not a harmless, "eternal-youth" gimmick. Be a real man: talk it through with your physician first, and let him or her be the judge of what's best for you.