Updated: Aug 25
Both men and women go through hormonal changes throughout the life cycle. Events like puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy all cause our bodies to increase certain hormones. Other events in life may have the opposite effect. Aging is an example. We dread it, but this ongoing process happens regardless. Both men & women will experience age-related hormone changes. As we know, women go through menopause. But what about men? Is there a such thing as male menopause or "MANopause?" Is this the same as female menopause?
Menopause is part of the natural aging of a female. Estrogen hormone levels decline & ovulation ceases. This marks the end of a woman's reproductive years or "biological clock." Menopause naturally occurs in a woman's late 40s into her 50s. However, some women may begin to experience symptoms as early as their mid-late 30s (early menopause). Peri-menopause is the precursor to menopause that can last anywhere from months to years as estrogen levels begin to drop & more symptoms of hormonal changes appear. Menopause is officially diagnosed 12 months after a woman stops menstruating. Common symptoms include:
Changes in the menstrual cycle
Increased weight gain
So who came up with "MANopause?" Do MEN go through a similar age-related life stage? First, let's understand some basics:
Testosterone: What is it?
This sex hormone is very important in men & plays a role in the natural biology and function of both men & women. Though testosterone is produced in both sexes, we see 10x increased levels of testosterone in biological men. This is one reason why it is a male sex hormone. Testosterone is also responsible for "masculine" traits such as hair growth, muscle volume/strength, voice deepening, penile health, and more.
What is "MANopause"?
It is a set of symptoms related to decreased testosterone levels. Actually, the term "MANopause" is not a recognized diagnosis. It is used socially & is popular because of the similarities in symptoms to female menopause. Truth is: decreased testosterone can begin as early as in a man's late 20s and will gradually decline for the rest of his life. Many sources state that once a man reaches age 30, his total testosterone begins to decline at an average rate of 1-2% yearly. What truly defines "MANopause" are the symptoms associated with this decline in testosterone. These symptoms include:
Low sperm quality/infertility
Low libido/sex drive
Reduced muscle mass
Increased body fat/weight gain
Other popular social terms used to describe "MANopause" are male menopause and andropause. But in the medical world, terms like late-onset hypogonadism, and androgen deficiency of the aging male (ADAM) are used when describing age-related decreased testosterone in men. These are more accepted. Late-onset hypogonadism- Testosterone deficiency caused by aging. Naturally, aging impacts the ability of the hypothalamus to secrete gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) which means the pituitary gland secretes less luteinizing hormone (LH). These are two steps that are crucial in the production of testosterone in the Leydig cells of the testes. It's a chain reaction. Androgen deficiency of the aging male (ADAM)- Similar to late-onset hypogonadism. ADAM can be used as a screening tool for hypogonadism. A screening tool developed in 2000 by John E. Morley & others at Saint Louis University is used today to help screen for age-related testosterone decreases in men (ADAM).
Menopause vs MANopause
As you can see, the symptoms of "MANopause" are comparable to what menopausal women experience, but are they the same? The short answer is NO, they are not the same. Let's look at a few reasons why:
DIAGNOSIS Menopause: Diagnosed 12 months after a woman's last period MANopause: Could or could not be diagnosed; These are just symptoms
PROGRESSION Menopause- Hormonal changes decrease rapidly. Estrogen, Progesterone, testosterone, & follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) decrease rapidly within a few months-years MANopause- Testosterone decreases over years-decades. Symptoms may not even be recognized until changes become very blatant & recognizable.
FERTILITY Menopause- Halts menstruation, and ovulation & naturally leads to infertility. MANopause- May lead to infertility or erectile dysfunction in some men but in nature, does not cause infertility.
TREATMENT Menopause- Symptoms can be treated; Irreversible MANopause- Symptoms can be treated; Reversible
MANopause, male menopause, and andropause may not be "real" terms, but they do describe real symptoms. Late-onset hypogonadism & androgen deficiency in the aging male (ADAM) are real terms & affect aging men. Though all of this is true, this is still not to be equally compared to female menopause in spite of similar symptoms that both experience. Treatment for low testosterone exists. Said treatment should be taken into consideration with expert advice from a primary care physician and/or urologist. There are risks associated when a man takes his hormonal health into his own hands. In the future, I'll discuss both natural & conventional treatment methods for low testosterone. Drop a comment below and let me know how you felt about this article and what you would like to learn about in the future.
Blessings in good health,
Gregory Lafortune, MS, RDN, LD