Men's Midlife Symptoms

Though women's midlife symptoms are readily recognized, men's changing health needs are less apparent. Here are a few helpful tips.

Books, videos, and speakers widely acknowledge and respond to women's "change of life" symptoms that occur with the onset of menopause somewhere near middle age. But less is known about men's midlife health changes, though awareness is beginning to build in science and popular culture.

Like women, men experience shifts in hormonal fluctuations, bodily functions, and emotions. Here are some of the adjustments that many men can expect to experience:

1. Decreased libido. Though testosterone plays a key role in the development of young boys in adolescence and beyond, by the time middle age rolls around, this vital hormone begins to diminish. One of the most obvious signs is a decreased interest in sex. While some young men may enjoy intimacy with their spouses several times a week, at middle age that interest can dwindle to monthly or less. The doctor can order blood work to measure testosterone levels and determine if they are affecting a man's sex drive.

2. Hair loss. Male pattern baldness can be inherited from the mother's paternal ancestors. But from whichever parent it comes, baldness is no laughing matter for many men. Some feel hair loss takes away from their masculinity, while others worry that women will find them less attractive minus hair.

3. Abdominal weight gain. Called "love handles" by some, a few extra pounds of fat (not muscle) may appear on men who are not as active as they used to be. Especially true of beer drinkers and couch potatoes, this belly fat can be dangerous if left unchecked, since it may signal internal fat that can damage the heart muscle.

4. Muscle weakening. Once firm and solid, body muscle may begin to lose tone and mass. If a man used to body build, that muscle may likewise turn to fat. It is important to stay active and use all muscle groups to keep them working properly.

5. Health factors. Once many men hit age forty, they become more susceptible to heart disease and other lifestyle-related conditions. Smokers may begin to feel short of breath when climbing steps or exerting themselves, and they may develop a smoker's cough as well as lung cancer. Years spent in the sun without skin protection may lead to skin cancers showing up at this time. Blood pressure increases may be noted.

6. Boredom. Some men may grow tired of their jobs, spouses, and lifestyles. This syndrome, known as midlife crisis, can lead to some men having affairs, divorcing their wives, and adopting a more youthful appearance.

7. Renewed energy. On the other hand, some men experience increased energy after several years of lethargy to build new career goals or even begin a new career. Second honeymoons are common. This can be an exciting phase of life with a positive outlook.

Like middle-age women, men need to keep an eye on their health and report unusual symptoms to their doctors. Some guys hesitate to do this and sadly, may contract serious health problems as a result. Start taking stock of your midlife condition and maximize your potential to enjoy many good years ahead.

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