Alright. This is essentially a continuation from Simonne’s comment section on her continuation of Desert Rain. We had started discussing the tension existing between Peter and Carol (a middle aged couple sorting through personal and relationship issues) – and the possible role that ageing and body image had on their relationship. With one of my comments, I went on a mini-tirade about gender empowerment. I’m sure there are alot of other factors at play here, but personal identity has much to do with chemical imbalance, as well as social imbalance. I’m not sure if there is necessary a type of “pathology” here because ageing is quite a natural state. I just don’t believe that society modifiers (such as the media) are acknowledging that the fountain of youth is somewhat of a piriah. I guess an argument could be made here as to what level the media works at in respect to modifying personal identity (but I don’t think we can disqualify it either). Regardless, this post is going to involve the other side of the symbol. There has been much discussion of the “yin” or female aspects of ageing – perhaps we should examine the “yang” or masculine side of the equation.
The term “Andropause” was apparently coined by Jed Diamond some time in the late 1990’s in his book “Male Menopause.” The term itself is a bit of a misnomer because (obviously) men don’t endure the monthly torment of menstruation as do their female counterparts [ooohh….now there’s an interesting image….ugh!]. The syndrome is defined as a multifactorial transitional period with physical, hormonal, psychological, interpersonal, social, sexual and even spiritual aspects. Andropause can affect men as early as the age of 35 or as late as 65, however the typical age range of many males is between that of 40 and 55 (in other words – quite a wide range of men could potentially be touched by this condition). So, according to some physicians, there is some debate as to whether andropause truly does exist. This is likely due to the broad range of “symptoms and signs” including (but not limited to): loss of libido/potency, nervousness, depression, memory loss, inability to concentrate, fatigue, sweating, insomnia and hot flashes (ha! men can have “power surges” too!). In my opinion, any time a mental or psychological component is involved in a disease (recall that hormones have a major influence on health and well-being) – doctors like to dally about and debate things (for good reason – if you know anything about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you will agree). Really though -hormone levels are of major importance (androgens and other important molecules) and these can, in fact, be measured.
So back to the controversy. Interestingly enough, England, Australia and Europe recognize the condition as a real one (go figure!), whereas many American physicians believe that the condition, in and of itself, does not exist. I think that part of the reason for this is that the American definition of andropause may be a little different in that they consider it to be quite a different condition in men vs. women (ie. they think that the hormone levels in men do not plummet as dramatically as they do in women). Really now. This is all about semantics. Some physicians believe that andropause is a viable concern, but consider it part of a problem relating to hypogonadism (ie. less or shrinking testicular tissue) or low testosterone levels. In addition (and this seems entirely reasonable), it seems as though diet and exercise have a huge role in modulating hormone levels (thus maintaining general, overall health and well-being). So men – jump on that mountain bike and take it for a spin (it can’t hurt – um, erm, I mean, it could, so be careful down there…. [wink]!). No really. If you think you may have andropause, it is important to have a full physical examination performed to rule out a variety of other potential problems that could potentiate or mimic an andropause or andropause-like condition.
Various treatment options are available for bonafide cases of andropause including: HRT (hormone replacement therapy – did anyone see that episode of “House” where the dad was taken testosterone and his kids went berzerk? hmm…interesting), exercise/dietary changes and stress reduction (this is probably a biggie), acupuncture/chinese medicine/herbals (careful with the herbs – you still need an accurate diagnosis if these are to work), counselling (couples counselling, career/spiritual support) and treatment for any possible depression. In addition, it is often helpful for men (like women) to take some time out for themselves – explore other interests, hobbies, re-invent themselves. We women are better at this than men (and I think that this helps us alot). Maybe we should take our men to the spa or go on a bit of a shopping spree with them (might do wonders for their self-esteem too). So talk to the men in your life. Support them and they will support you. It’s all about empowerment!
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Disclaimer – Oh, I hate these things. But seriously, if you believe that you or someone you love could be affected by andropause – seek professional help from your physician. As discussed, there are a variety of reasons why you may experience some of the signs and symptoms discussed and it is best to have an accurate diagnosis before starting any treatment. Enough said.
Love and hugs to all (long live “yang!”),