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Male Aging - Effects of Aging

As a man ages many changes occur in his body, some of which are due to changes in the levels of circulating hormones.  These age-related changes in hormone levels increase his risk for developing prostate dysfunction.

In the past, it was thought that andropause was caused exclusively by a decrease in the level of a man’s most potent sex hormone, testosterone. However, there are also accompanying changes, both up and down, in other hormones. 

From fifty to seventy, a man's testosterone level can decline as much as thirty to fifty percent. If he started out on the low side in his earlier years, this decline can be more pronounced.

As this drop in testosterone occurs, a simultaneous age-related increase occurs in a protein called “sex hormone binding globulin” (SHBG) which binds to testosterone, making it less available to the body. There is also an age-related increase in estrogen levels to compound the problem.

While both men and women experience lowered levels of certain hormones as they age, symptoms of the decline differ significantly.

With women, the drop is marked by the physical end of their menstrual cycle and is called menopause. It is mostly due to a decrease in estrogen levels, along with almost total cessation of the production of progesterone, and is marked by symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and general irritability.

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Men have a similar drop in hormone levels, but do not have an obvious physical marker for the condition, as do women, and their symptoms are more subtle. The condition however, is quite real, and many professionals now use the terms “andropause” or “PADAM” an acronym for “Partial Androgen Deficiency of the Aging Male” to describe it.

A large number of studies have linked imbalances in estrogen to androgen ratios to the development of both breast and prostate cancer. The age-related changes in relative ratios of these hormones have a direct effect on the prostate, the libido, erectile function, sexual ability, orgasms, and a host of physical characteristics.

The symptoms many aging males experience include:

While some of these symptoms can be the result of minor problems, they may also accompany serious problems and should be evaluated by a medical doctor.

Aside from normal aging, which is beyond our control, there are many lifestyle and nutritional issues that can cause additional estrogen production or initiate a reduction in androgens. For example, excess fat tissue produces estrogens. An overweight or obese man can have significantly higher estrogen levels than a man of normal weight which will alter his testosterone to estrogen ratio.

Also, alcohol consumption, smoking, and other environmental factors can exacerbate age-related hormone imbalances. In contrast to aging, external factors are certainly controllable, at least to a degree, if one is willing to make the effort to do so.

 By maintaining overall health and hormone balance, many men can alleviate these symptoms and restore youthful vigor.

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