Q. Is there really such a thing as "male menopause?" Men don't get hot flashes, do they?
-- Ed, Springfield, PA
A. They don't get hot flashes, but they can have problems on the other side of the dial . . . as in not getting hot enough. As men age, their testosterone levels take a slow-motion nosedive, and sexual desire -- as well as their erections -- can fizzle. But male menopause (andropause) is more than just involuntary celibacy. Guys can lose their energy and the power behind their golf drive or tennis serve as muscle strength ebbs. And, like women, they become more vulnerable to osteoporosis.
So guys, if you are losing the hair on your head and can skip a day shaving (dwindling testosterone is an overzealous hairstylist), ask your doctor about a hormone test. You may be a candidate for testosterone therapy. There are pros and cons: Testosterone therapy has been linked to prostate cancer, though that has been far from proved (otherwise, young men with raging testosterone would be felled by the thousands, and they're not). It does cause some prostate enlargement, but not enough to cause problems such as urinary blockage. On the pro side, it can correct the problems we just talked about (except for baldness, which it can worsen) and may decrease levels of lousy LDL cholesterol and improve insulin sensitivity, taking out one risk factor each for heart disease and diabetes. Testosterone helps your muscles grow when you do resistance exercises, which also decreases the risk for diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. If your doc gives you the go-ahead, and you take it, don't expect to feel 30 at 50. But at least you won't feel 70.