Dissing Male Menopause
It had to happen. Now, even aging gracefully is under attack from big business and big medicine! Of course we all know that big medicine is big business --- that is the reason why, whenever some disease or condition is cured, something new pops right up to take its place.It figures, doesn't it? One sector of the medical research community is making big bucks getting grants to find cures for what ails us. Market place dynamics being what they are, something has to take its place. I am all for free enterprise, as much of it as trickles down to us little guys, but this latest invention of marketable medicine is a bit much for those poor benighted males we patronizingly describe as "middle-aged." I am talking about male menopause.So why are all these unfortunate older males suddenly being barraged with the symptoms of "male menopause?" The simple answer is that those nightmares of every healthy hypochondriac, the drug companies, have found something new to sell.Drug companies, from those pushing synthetics to those peddling "natural" products, are all jumping on this latest threat to the male ego with one product or another. Judging from the early responses in the marketplace, selling the cures for male menopause is going to kick back big dividends.You probably thought that "menopause" was that "thing" that happens to "older women." Well, not any more. According to the medical experts, there is a time in a man's life when everything begins to slow down. Those stomach muscles decide to fight against the size 32 waistband they always used to fit behind; both sides of your rear end suddenly surrender to the effects of gravity; your scalp is no longer hiding from the sunlight; your wife thinks it's undignified for grandparents to engage in sex and the company you have worked for for 30 years has raided your pension fund. But worry not -- there's a cure waiting at your doctor's office or in the local health food store.Before we call our doctor on his cell phone at the 19th hole, or set down the brewskie and drive over to GNC, let's take a longer look at what the health care industry says is happening to those 50-year-olds.The culprits, we are told, are gradual declines in the amount of two substances in the aging male's body. The first is testosterone, that wellspring of manliness that gives us the urge to procreate and hunt. The second is DHEA (if you can't pronounce testosterone, don't bother with dehydroepiandrosterone), a substance that helps the body maintain muscle mass, high energy levels and counters the effects of stress.The declining levels of these substances in the male body are also accompanied by what we are told are the two leading physical ailments of older males, urinary tract problems and the one thing that strikes at the very core of all things manly --- impotence. Add in heart disease, memory loss, Alzheimer's disease and arthritis and the consequence of the baby boom --- the graybeard boom --- and we have a large market segment of the population just crying out to be sold something that looks like a cure.For doctors and drug companies the philosopher's stone in this alchemic brew of physical disaster is the prostate and the penis. In many older men, the prostate begins to enlarge. This is often a benign enlargement, but in some cases it is due to a cancerous tumor which can be fatal. In either event, since the prostate is wrapped around the urinary tract at the base of the bladder, the result of enlargement is difficult or frequent urination, among other symptoms. Changes in the penis with an onset marked by age include narrowing of the organ's arteries and the filling of its spongelike erection chambers with dense connective tissue. The result is difficulty in achieving and maintaining erection and in ejaculation. Simply put, it just doesn't work as well as it did when Marilyn Monroe first appeared naked in Playboy.Any modern middle-aged male may be afflicted by these problems. He will also most likely be beset by stress and tension, high blood pressure and poor circulation, lack of energy and of general well-being, all as a result of poor diet and lack of exercise. The population demographics of the U.S. indicate that such males will be a large percentage of a growing ever-older general population.Suddenly it seems as if our medical community and pharmaceutical industry, the bastions of for-profit health care that they are, have realized that this is not a problem to cure, but a bright new profit center to be busily exploited.In what looks suspiciously like a major marketing campaign, there appears a flurry of articles and announcements in the press. Newsweek and Time both carry major stories on aging with the implication that we equate aging with lack of sexual prowess. Newsweek tells us that 50-year-old Ron Fortner has realized that age is catching up with him. Ron admits he is taking hormone therapy at the Palm Springs Life Extension Institute. God forbid that I should question Newsweek's sources -- I am sure Ron really exists -- but if so, surely he must be like one of those guys that is willing to go on the Geraldo show and admit that he wears stockings and a garter belt under his pinstripe suit.In the same article, Dr. William Regelson of the Medical College of Virginia tells us that aging is a disease that can be cured. Dr. Theresa Crenshaw says that male and female menopause can be prevented. Bear in mind, both doctors are selling books on the subject. It gets even worse. One team of urologists have pulled together enough venture capitol to launch a chain of "impotence clinics." According to one network newscast, one doctor lecturing on erection-inducing drugs announced to his audience that his drug of choice worked under the most daunting circumstances -- and proceeded to drop his pants in front of his audience to prove it! Mark my words -- it won't be long before National Geographic documentaries lose their lock on full frontal nudity.Even in not-for-profit National Health Service England, the profitable possibilities of drawing attention to male menopause have not escaped the medical profession. On London's Harley Street, (the Rodeo Drive of the highly profitable private medical practice field), one doctor is dispensing testosterone pills and patches with fervor -- a real twist on the Johnny Appleseed story. Dr. Malcolm Carruthers, according to London's Daily Telegraph, even takes the pills himself, "Not for any sexual difficulty," the 58-year-old doctor assures us. Okay. It seems the pills help the doctor stay awake during long drives and boring medical meetings -- which presumably are those national health chats about topics that do not involve profit. Why is Dr. Carruthers making the press? I won't venture to say, but it does so happen that his book Male Menopause -- Restoring Virility (Harper Collins, £12.99) is now hitting the bookstores.Since we are now taking a look at the specifics of medical involvement in the male menopause market, I would be remiss if I did not report on the involvement of our own hometown medical establishment. I am happy to report that not a single staffer at the Medical College of Georgia, as of this printing, is appearing on the Geraldo show, marketing a book or erecting a drive-in, fast food style impotence clinic where flagging -- but lucky -- 50-year-olds can receive a shot and be assured of raising an appropriate salute to the last 25-year-old woman to leave their neighborhood bar that night.I guess by now you have figured out that I am not all that impressed by this male menopause thing. Neither is Dr. Roger Kirby, another English urologist who is calling a conference in London to debate whether or not male menopause even exists! Like many other ethical MDs, he is appalled that America is busily marketing hormone patches, pills and shots -- before the "condition" they all treat is verified as real!I cannot avoid the suspicion that a profit-driven medical industry is all too quick to identify a problem that presses every man's emotional buttons -- and then is all too quick to market a cure for it. The facts are that many of the problems which are now being fashionably labeled as male menopause are due as much to lifestyle as they are to age. In most men, natural levels of testosterone and DHEA decline so slowly that they reach really low levels only at age 75-100. Now think about it, are you really going to have a good use for an erection when you are 100 years old?On the other hand, so to speak, low testosterone levels and impotence can be a real medical problem at any age. Many cases are recorded of 15-year-olds who need hormone therapy -- a time for most of us when too much testosterone is the problem, rather than too little. As for impotence, most of us would be lying if we claimed we never had a problem after one beer too many, or the night before we had to ask our female supervisor for a raise.There was a time when we men had little to do but procreate, hunt, and cook. Although the likelihood of being gored to death by a wild boar was somewhat greater then than it is today, chances are we lived to be wiry, laid back, healthy and horny 70-year-olds. In these modern times, the causes that lead most of us to be flabby, worn out, stressed out 50-year-old shadows of our former selves are many -- and age is not the first one on the list. Before you run to the health food store or toss away your NicoDerm for another patch, take a look at the one option that is free, yet is the one we run from further and faster than anything else -- common sense prevention.According to that Newsweek article, Dr. Regelson even claims that the aging process can be reversed! Some people will really mess with Mother Nature if it means turning a buck. I'm for living a natural life for only as long as God and my genes determine. The last thing I want to see is "life extension therapy." While I am sure that the world would benefit from an extra hundred years or so of me, there are some males I could name who haven't reached 50 yet and are already a waste of all the oxygen they have consumed! I hate to sound like a crotchety old woman about this, but isn't it time a little free prevention took priority over a lot of costly cures? Whew! Is it hot in here? Or is it just me?*************SIDEBAR ONEOkay, if you really want your libido back, here are a few suggestions culled from news sources around the world. Remember -- good sex these days can be as deadly as a bad growth on your prostate. This information is offered for your education only -- consult a doctor before embarking on any hormone therapy program.Not Nature's Way of Dealing With 'Male Menopause:'Injections such as Primo-Teston Depot, or Sustenon, are given into the buttock and can be painful. They last a week or so and in some men prompt emotional and sexual highs and lows. New injections under trial could last more evenly for two to four months.Pills such as Restandol contain testosterone undecanoate. This needs to be taken two to three times a day and gives peak hormonal levels after two-to-four hours. Proviron contains mesterlone which, although weaker, can work when Restandol fails.Implantable pellets: Crystals of pure testosterone fused. Six to 10 pellets are passed through a large needle into the buttock. This method gives steadiest hormonal levels, for up to six months, though symptoms gradually return as the hormonal "battery" runs out.Patches: Self-adhesive testosterone patches may be attached to back, upper arms, thighs or stomach. Trials show that two patches applied every night for a year restored levels of testosterone to normal in men aged 15 to 65 with marked hormonal deficiencies.Nature's Way of Dealing With 'Male Menopause:'Diet: Avoid very low fat, low cholesterol diets. Testosterone is made from cholesterol and too little could reduce hormone levels by 10 percent, a Swedish study found. If we could conduct a poll. we'd probably find that the happiest heart victims were those afflicted during lovemaking.Alcohol: Avoid heavy beer drinking. The phyto-oestrogens in beer can lead to feminising flab.Stress: Plan vacations and time off. Too much stress leads to under-production of sex hormones.Exercise: Moderate exercise lowers stress levels and boosts testosterone. Avoid unnatural exertion. Sexual activity: Make love often to encourage the brain to stimulate testosterone output (but also remember what we said about good sex and grandparents).