Men, maybe it’s more than low “T”
North Dallas LIVING WELL Magazine
Your energy levels have been decreasing along with your libido and sexual performance. You have noticed waist size increasing and concentration and memory aren’t what they used to be. These are some of the early and most noticeable signs and symptoms of the male menopause, called medically, andropause. This is caused by a steady decrease in the male sex hormone testosterone, also known as the big “T.” This condition eventually affects all men, although at markedly different rates, some men notice the changes in their 40s, others not until much later.
Testosterone does more than increase energy levels, improve libido and sexual function, and add muscle mass, optimal testosterone levels help protect against heart disease, Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis. If low testosterone is the only problem, then replacing testosterone can resolve it. However, multiple factors can occur which produce these symptoms and the associated degenerative diseases of the aging process. Although sufficient testosterone is very important for male functioning, it should be noted that all of our hormones decrease as we age and impact our health.
There are many elements in our present day world that cause a decrease in our thyroid function, along with the aging process, from pollutants in the air to chemicals in our food and water. The thyroid affects every cell of your body. The thyroid hormone controls metabolism and a decrease in thyroid slows you down in all body processes. Your thinking is slowed and isn’t as clear. You become constipated, your skin dries and wrinkles, sleeping problems are common, you are always fatigued and tired or you lose your zest for life.
As important as testosterone and thyroid are your adrenal glands. These work in combination with them. Without your thyroid you would be markedly slowed down and without your adrenals you would be dead in three days! Adrenals are two small glands that sit atop of our kidneys and secrete a number of hormones. Especially important and well known are adrenalin and cortisol. Adrenalin is the hormone that readies us for immediate “sight or flight.” Cortisol is the hormone that supports us through stress. Chronic ongoing stress can cause high levels of cortisol, which can be detrimental to our health. Long-term stress can eventually cause an adrenal slow down with the result of problems caused by too little cortisol. You have to have sufficient cortisol for thyroid hormone and testosterone to function properly. Thus, you can see, there needs to be a balance of hormones for the best health status.
There is one hormone in our society that tends to get elevated as we age. That hormone is insulin. The elevation of insulin is associated with a number of bad effects on our health. It can elevate to the point where your pancreas beta cells “burn out” and then you have type II diabetes requiring insulin injections.
Besides hormonal changes that impact our health negatively as we age, there are other factors as well such as oxidative stress, which damages our cells and is closely related to macular degeneration, cataracts and cancer; chronic “silent” inflammation linked to heart disease, stroke, and arthritis; and glycation due to too high blood sugar levels, (even below diabetic levels), which is strongly associated with kidney damage, neuropathies and Alzheimer’s disease.
The bad news is there are quite a few processes that tend to cause us degenerative changes as we age. The good news is these processes are largely controllable. Enter in the new paradigm of wellness medicine. Physicians practicing medicine in this venue do not just treat a specific problem or symptom but take a wide angle view of your entire health status. From this a plan is developed to bring you to what is an optimal state of health and to keep you there. Specific risk factors and causes can be identified and modifications made to improve your health and lower the chances of future degenerative processes.
Men in my practice enjoy feeling good and looking good. My goal, and theirs, is to keep their male ambitions and youthful enthusiasm for life going. They want to continue enjoying the male pursuits they enjoyed in their 20s and 30s, and they can if they are physically and mentally capable.
Yes, low testosterone can take the wind out of your sail; however that may be only part of a larger picture. I recommend a well rounded view of your general health be done. When this is completed, a plan can be instigated to bring you to an optimal health status. Let’s slow down the aging process and have a long health span!
Guy A. Francis, D.O., The Health Physician for Men, practices wellness medicine at Living Well Dallas and can be reached at 972-930-0260 or firstname.lastname@example.org.