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    Debating the Existence of Male Menopause


    Not so fast, argues Howard Jacobs, who writes that many of the changes that occur in men are not the result of a decline in hormones, rather they "should be attributed to the passage of years." He agrees that testosterone levels drop, but he says that drop actually causing symptoms such as a reduction in sexual activity and a decline in muscle bulk and bone strength has yet to be proven. Furthermore, he writes, testosterone therapy has had less than impressive results among healthy, older men in several studies. Jacobs is emeritus professor of reproductive endocrinology at Royal Free and University College School of Medicine, Middlesex Hospital, in London.

    In other words, some men might have mood swings, develop osteoporosis, and experience a decline in sexual function, but these three symptoms may be the result of three discrete causes rather than just the one -- a decline in testosterone.

    Loren Lipson, MD, agrees that the symptoms individual men may develop are due to several causes. "There have been studies showing that as [some men] get older, levels of testosterone fall. ... Other individuals maintain testosterone in the normal range and such individuals may or may not have diminished sexual activity. There is no question that people in their 60s and 70s are prone to many chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and [hardening of the arteries], which also interfere with sexual function," he says. Lipson, chief of the division of geriatric medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, is an endocrinologist and board-certified in geriatric medicine.

    Lipson adds that the closest thing to male menopause is more emotional than physical. "This is what has been called in men 'the midlife crisis,' which as far as I know doesn't have hormonal changes to it. And to relieve these feelings of failure, of not living up to [one's] potential, the male of the species has done many weird and interesting things: bought a red Corvette at the age of 55, left a wife of 30 years for someone who is 18 years old -- that sort of thing," he says.

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