Call it the andropause. Or hypogonadism. Or, best of all, the manopause. Whatever you call it, medical science increasingly confirms what many men in their middle-age know already: there is such as a thing as the male menopause. It’s a cascade of mental and physical effects that are hard to deny, even if they’re less clearly defined as the female menopause. The good news is that, unlike for women, the menopause for men is not inevitable. The bad news is that it’s down to diet and exercise – which is to say that it’s down to you.
So what are the effects of the manopause? One, you lose muscle – about 3-5 percent of your muscle every 10 years after the age of 30, it’s said. Two, you put on weight. Three, you lose energy. Four, your bones get weaker. Five, you lose the drive to have sex. Six, you experience increased anxiety. And then there’s the rising incidence of insulin resistance, heart troubles and even thoughts of suicide. Throw in night sweats and a grumpy temperament. It’s not a nice package. And it’s not just down to older age or the ‘mid-life crisis’ – which is more to do with an assessment of one’s contentment with where one is at, well, half-way through the show. Rather, manopause is a product of all the years before – a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, lack of sleep.
The solution? Well, obvious in a way. You need to eat a low-carb, high protein diet – the latter to help maintain muscle mass and bone density. That’s why you also should weight train a couple of times a week. You need to move more – that doesn’t mean doing a monthly triathlon, just taking good, regular, long walks; using the stairs rather than the lift. And you need to get a good eight hours sleep every night. The manopause demands proper down-time (not the potato chips in front of the TV kind).
It’s probably worth getting your testosterone levels tested too. These will have naturally dropped off by this age but declining testosterone is linked to all of the symptoms mentioned – testosterone helps you put on and maintain muscle; it’s necessary for good bone density; it combats depression; and there’s an inverse correlation with obesity and mortality from heart failure ie. the less of it you have, the more prone you are to both issues. Furthermore – and this is what most people mistakenly understand testosterone to be all about – as levels go down, it’s harder to get it up.
The jury is still out on the role of statins in the manopause – and half of men over the age of 45 are now on statins. These are the drugs that – very effectively – lower cholesterol levels by inhibiting certain enzymes. But they also have side effects, some of which correlate to the symptoms of the manopause: impairing muscle adaptation to exercise, for example, and increasing muscle pain – which dissuades those on statins from exercising. So, if you are on statins, it’s worth discussing these with your doctor too.
Does all this sound gloomy? It shouldn’t. If you’re at the right age and these symptoms sound familiar, the manopause at least offers some kind of explanation – and a call to action. And if the manopause lies in your future, well, now is the time to act to minimise its impact as well.