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When I spoke recently with healthy-aging experts Dr. Edison de Mello and Dr. Myles Spar, they revealed seven important habits that men over 50 are not doing to improve their health:
A man’s life becomes1 fascinating over age 50. But does low testosterone keep some men from enjoying a new phase of their life?
As a man approaches age 50, a new season of manhood begins, yet aging is not something most men want to think about – let alone talk about.
Many men enter their 50s business-as-usual, living on a autopilot and acting as if nothing has really changed that much:
A man’s body and psyche changes with time.
Not only do men over 50 have more life experience and deeper values, but one of the fundamental components of their bodies – a substance that the brain needs to communicate effectively with the rest of the body (and visa versa) – has lessened significantly: testosterone.
Back when I turned 40, I noticed changes in my body and energy level.
I tried to find a good source of information online. I looked around for support and information – to see if other men were experiencing insights and questions on their journey into mid-life – and in the process I happened to notice that many other guys were just not dealing with the maturing process (of course, it’s impossible to prepare for a smooth transition when you have your head buried in the sand).
Understandably, many men postpone processing the impact of – what really is a noble life event – andropause, and avoid making any conscious decisions or plans for what they want the next 50 years of their life to look like, and specifically how they are going to make that happen.
The human body is nothing less than a marvel. We still only know a tiny fraction of what there is to know about, say, the human brain. Fortunately, we do know a bit more about hormones.
Hormones are one way that cells and organs communicate with the rest of your body.
We know that we are animals, creatures of flesh, blood and bone. There’s no denying that.
But we also know that there is a vast intelligence and creativity behind what we are, and most of us like to believe that there is a purpose and a soulfulness to our lives.
If we get too into our heads, we forget about tending to our physical bodies. On the other hand, if we get too into tending to our animal selves, we forget to strive toward our higher, nobler potential. Ideally, we learn to integrate our hormones with our higher consciousness.
And we march along, admitting that we are mammals, while simultaneously believing we are something more.
Where do hormones fit into all of this? Well, who can say for sure – but, most people would probably answer that hormones represent that part of us that is “mammal.”
Without hormones, our cells – and the organs they comprise – would be unable to share vital information with each other:
…hormones are a regulatory substance produced in the human body and transported in blood and stimulate specific cells or tissues into action — they influence behavior and mood more than we realize”
Hormones play a key role in the healthy function of your body, and that’s a masterpiece of understatement.
Hormones script and inspire a lot of our behaviors. We like to think that we’re being all independent and conscious, but really, so much of what we do throughout the day is secretly motivated by our hormones.
A primary hormone for women is estrogen, and a primary hormone for men is testosterone.
You remember, somewhere back there in middle school, we all learned about testosterone’s role in promoting “male secondary sex characteristic?” Yeah, been there, done that.
But wait. The more subtle role testosterone plays in the health of men over 50 is not as frequently addressed. In fact, until recently, it was rarely mentioned. It’s kind of the reason that I created this entire website to begin with.
Even testosterone’s lesser-known functions are still hugely important.
In men, when testosterone levels fall below normal ranges, it can cause undesirable symptoms.
The problem with saying “normal ranges” is that ranges are based on averages, and in reality every body’s chemistry is uniquely different. Looking at the results of your blood panel from the lab can give you an idea of where your current testosterone is falling based on averages of other men in your age range.
But what can also be an important indicator of whether or not your body is producing enough testosterone is how you feel. For this reason, it’s essential that you communicate with your medical doctor and/or naturopath any changes in how your body and your mood feels in your daily life.
I first started noticing that I felt “different than usual” when I turned 37. My energy seemed to fluctuate more. My body sometimes felt alien to me. I had less zest. My body didn’t burn calories as easily (metabolism changes) and it was easier for me to gain fat, even though I was working out.
…just like when your vision becomes blurry and you get eyeglasses or Lasik, when your hormones get wobbly you do things to get solid again”
Then, when I turned 39, it really started to get a bit strange. One day, I’d wake up and feel 20 years old, the next day I’d wake up and feel 70. I couldn’t figure it out. I thought it was stress.
I discovered that a man’s testosterone peaks at around age 20, and then gradually declines after that.
I eventually figured out I was having Andropause-like symptoms. Not the end of the world, by any means (I was able to move into solution-mode and get my zest back!) In fact, I came to see it as a sacred, honorable life event and a positive thing. But the point is, why did it take me so long to figure it out?
Why wasn’t there more information available to me and why didn’t men talk about this stuff more with each other? Hence, I built this site. So that if somebody did a Google search about male menopause then perhaps they might find this site and know that everything is healthy and natural and, for the most part, fine.
Just like when your vision becomes blurry and you get eyeglasses or Lasik, when your hormones get wobbly you do things to get solid again. Because as we approach, and then pass, 50, our bodies often begin to produce less testosterone. When testosterone levels drop below those which our bodies need to maintain a healthy balance we may experience andropause.
In my case, I discovered that my daily diet was too inflammatory, that I was nutrient deficient (Vitamin D, anyone?), and that my lifestyle was too sedentary. When I began to make improvements in these areas, the emotional flatness I had been feeling dramatically improved!
In certain cases, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be helpful to men over 50. According to wikipedia, hormone replacement therapy refers to any form of hormone therapy wherein the patient, in the course of medical treatment, receives hormones, either to supplement a lack of naturally occurring hormones, or to substitute other hormones for naturally occurring hormones.
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Some men choose to supplement with testosterone in order to alleviate some of the challenges associated with andropause. Here are some of the issues that lower testosterone can create in men over 50:
Low testosterone can also impair our bodies’ ability to clear excess cholesterol from our blood and increase our vulnerability to more serious diseases.
But don’t stress, there are ways to address Andropause-like symptoms. It starts with taking a sincere, committed interest in your own health and consulting a trusted physician or naturopath. Then you can asses your options and make decisions that are right for you. It may feel a little awkward at first, but taking action is worth it.
By the way, when you speak to your doctor about testosterone, please understand that there are two kinds of supplementation: über-synthetic (what the pharmaceutical companies manufacture), and the more naturally compounded variety that is more bioavailable. If anyone talks to you about research or statistics about testosterone, make sure that you know and they know which kind of testosterone is specifically being discussed – there is an enormous amount of misinformation and misunderstanding on this particular topic so I encourage you to do your research holistically.
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Healthy Aging is a process of monitoring the key indicators of aging in men over 50 – including brain health, hormone regulation, muscle-to-fat ratio, and overall wellness and disease prevention. Currently, there are 18 primary factors of aging – some of them can be slowed and a few of them can even be reversed.
Getting healthier permanently isn’t just about “how-to’s,” it’s about understanding how you operate psychologically when undertaking self-improvement.
One of the most helpful things you can do to get healthier is to release shame.
Everyone falls off the health horse periodically, but many of us beat ourselves up psychologically when it happens to us.
Shame has a peculiar way of only making matters worse.
On the other hand, it can be very freeing to finally accept that so-called setbacks are a natural and healthy part of self-improvement.
It’s enormously helpful if you understand ahead of time that your wellness journey will involve 3 steps forward, then 1 step back, 3 steps forward, 1 step back, 3 steps forward, 1 step back, and on-and-on.
If you know ahead of time that those “1 step backs” are a logical and necessary part of permanent change, then it frees you up from having to feel frustrated about yourself when it happens.
Each of us has had the experience of exercising consistently for a couple of weeks, and then stumbling back into old, sedentary habits again.
It happens to all men over 50.
Internal resistance is a positive part of the process of gradually making health your top priority. Your intellect might get on board right away, but the emotional and physical parts of yourself might need a bit more time to experiment with their own free will.
And that’s how it should be.
So… what to do when you fall off the health wagon?
Engage your sense of humor. Life is funny. Change is funny! Shift into solution-mode: gently guide your attention and energy back to what’s working well about your daily life, and visualize yourself happily undergoing the new habits that you’d like to one day adopt.
Soon, you’ll be out of the mire, and back to enjoying your new self-care protocols.