Time magazine’s recent issue includes the shrill headline —“Manopause?!”— over a shirtless, 50-something man with a look of alarm on his face. The story is more level-headed, with David Von Drehle taking a deep, well-balanced dive into why middle-aged men are increasingly turning to “Low T centers” and doctors’ off-label prescriptions for common aspects of growing old, like muscle loss, and diminished sex drives.
And while Time coins a catchy new term for the heavily hyped Low-T phenomenon — “manopause” does have a nice ring to it — the story outlines the boom in testosterone products without providing real insight on what, exactly, can help prevent it or when testosterone supplements are even needed. Unlike for a woman, for whom its very clear when she hits menopause — her menstrual period stops — it’s much more slippery for men to define if or when they’re in “manopause,” especially since men can father children into their 80s. And therein lies the problem with the the term: There’s a good chance that men of a certain age are only looking for an easy way to lose weight, add muscle, and get more energy.
Here’s what we know: Tesosterone decline is natural, and about a fifth of men over the age of 40 have testosterone levels below 300 (referring to “nanograms per deciliter” but we’ll just let the numbers stand), or the somewhat arbitrary number that doctors say qualifies as “low T.” Those dropping levels could be partly responsible for why you’re dragging in the afternoons, moody, and have a lower libido.
But just as likely a threat to your supply of testosterone are the daily lifestyle decisions you make: how much you sleep, what you weigh, how stressed you allow yourself to get. Research shows that after just one week of bad sleep, your levels can drop by 15 percent. One broad study found that, when men reigned in their diets and exercised regularly to lose 15 percent body weight, their T levels soared. And anxiety? It pumps up your cortisol levels — a hormone that plays a role in regulating blood pressure, metabolism, and the nervous system — and steals your body’s supply of other hormones that would be used to make testosterone. In other words, less stress, more T.
Take a hard look at these influential lifestyle factors, make some positive changes, and you can top off your testosterone levels without stepping foot in a low-T center to get injections, gels, patches or sprays that, once you start taking, you may need to keep taking indefinitely for continued results. (Along with potentially serious side effects.)
The Bottom Line: “Manopause,” or “Low-T” is a very real, but hard to define, phenomenon — and like the symptoms, the fix isn’t always clear. It might be you need to take a pill, or, just as likely, get more of the stuff you want anyway — sleep, good food, exercise, and some time to relax. In other words, talk it out with your doctor.