Posts Tagged ‘Men’s Health’
What is a guy to do when he starts feeling his age? What if he’s less energetic, less playful, less romantically inclined than he used to be? Should he accept it all as an inevitable part of life or should he fight back?
If you watch television at all, you cannot miss the onslaught of ads directed at male baby boomers who wonder where all their mojo has gone. Could it be low testosterone, “low T,” as the abbreviation goes? If so, the advertisers assert that hormone therapy, or more specifically testosterone replacement therapy, can do the trick.
Sales of prescription hormones have more than doubled since 2008, reaching $1.6 billion last year, not including supplements purchased over the counter, according to IMS Health, Inc., a company that analyzes healthcare-related data.
Men are bombarded by these advertising campaigns, urging them to ask their doctor about low testosterone, says Dr. Spyros Mezitis, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, in an interview on the subject with WebMD. So they come complaining about feeling fatigued, weak, depressed and without sex drive, which are all common symptoms of a drop in testosterone.
Testosterone levels can be determined by a simple blood test. A normal testosterone range is between 300 and 1,200 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) of blood. Less than 300 is considered low T.
In Dr. Mezitis’ estimation, about a quarter to a third of the patients he tests have levels below normal. But in most cases, the symptoms have other causes. While lower levels are to be expected with aging, he says, lower than normal scores can have a number of different reasons, including diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.
Testosterone is a hormone responsible for a man’s libido, sperm production, and also for muscle and bone strength. A gradual decline in testosterone usually begins after the age of 30. Other health problems in addition to natural aging may accelerate the process.
Treatment for low T. comes in multiple forms, including injections, patches, pellets, tablets and gels.
Ideally, the goal would be to keep testosterone at levels consistent with those of a 25-year-old male. But hoping for that kind of rejuvenation may be a stretch.
A new study found that older men who used testosterone gels saw small improvements in their muscle-to-fat-ratio, but not too many noticeable benefits to their physical wellbeing in terms of energy, flexibility and endurance.
Based on these findings, it is not altogether clear what testosterone therapy can do in addition to physical exercise, said Dr. Kerry Hildreth of the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, the lead author of the study in an interview with Reuters. The therapy may be “widely used in people where it really may not be appropriate or may not provide the benefits that people think it’s going to,” she added.
There are also concerns over side effects. Skin irritations such as acne and rashes as well as premature balding and breast development have been reported in cases of prolonged use of testosterone boosters. There are also risks of liver damage.
Besides the physiological effects, there can be a psychological impact as well. Mood swings, irritability and aggressive behavior have been noticed.
To maintain physical vigor at an advanced age, regular exercise, especially strength and endurance training, may still be the best way to go. As the study mentioned above showed, testosterone therapy brought few if any advantages beyond what could be achieved by exercising alone. In addition, I would advocate a healthy diet and stress management, both issues that grow in importance with aging.
Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog and at amazon.com. For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.” (www.timigustafson.com).
According to Men’s Health Magazine, Boise, Idaho, is the new place to be for men who look for health, happiness and quality of life. The magazine conducts regular surveys on health issues and, among other criteria, points out geographical differences. Other advantageous places in the United States are San Francisco and San Jose, California. All three cities scored high marks for physical and mental health for a number of reasons, including low crime rates and relatively short commuting times.
The survey, which is based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other government agencies, also suggests that men’s interest in health and wellness issues is on the rise.
That in itself is newsworthy. Statistically, men are four times less likely to consult with a doctor than women when they encounter health problems, which often lands them in the emergency room when more timely measures could have prevented further deterioration.
Men are slowly getting better at it, but they still could learn more from women how to take care of their health needs, says Mike Shallcross, an associate editor at Men’s Health in an interview with BBC.
“Men have a reluctance to ask for help or admit they have a problem about anything,” says Peter Baker of Men’s Health Forum. “Men are generally in poorer health [than women], with a worse diet. They are more likely to smoke and be alcoholics. The majority doesn’t do enough [exercising] to make any difference to their health.”
“Historically, women have always been the custodians of health in the family,” says Dr. Colin Cooper, a professor at the Institute for Cancer Research (ICR), London, Great Britain. “Men tend not to talk about health.”
All this may be changing. The greatest discrepancies between the sexes used to be between the ages of 16 and 44 and then narrowed until the age of 75 when older men sought medical help in greater numbers than women. But nowadays the gender divide diminishes much sooner, according to the BBC report.
There is still much work to be done, especially in terms of health education and preventive measures. According to statistics issued by the CDC, men are worse off than women on almost every account when it comes to health status and health-promoting lifestyle. Men are more likely to have weight problems due to poor eating habits and lack of physical activity. They are at higher risk to develop high blood pressure, heart disease, and to suffer a heart attack or stroke. Prostate cancer affects nearly as many men as breast cancer does women, but few undergo periodical screening for early detection.
What keeps men from seeking medical counsel more often? In part it may be embarrassment and discomfort when it comes to addressing issues of anatomy and bodily functions, says Dr. Patricia MacNair who specializes in geriatric medicine. Some men avoid intimate examination for as long as they can. Women do not seem to have such hung-ups, she says. Part of that is cultural.
A younger generation of men will hopefully be able to overcome the inhibitions of their forbearers and take more responsibility for their well-being. The signs are good. Men’s Health magazine has a global readership in the tens of millions and growing.
Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.”, and at amazon.com. You can follow Timi on Twitter and on Facebook.