Menopause and Andropause
Another hand we’re dealt as human beings is getting older, and that comes with physical changes like hormonal shifts. You’re probably all thinking about menopause, but changes in hormones are not exclusively a female issue. It’s a natural part of aging that affects
both sexes, though for men the changes happen more gradually while women tend to experience a dramatic hormone plunge. In women, ovulation ends and hormone production plummets during a relatively short period of time.
Often referred to as “andropause,” men can experience a decrease in testosterone, sexual function, energy and mood swings but these changes may be subtle and can go unnoticed for years.
Symptoms of decreased testosterone may include:
♥ Changes in sexual function, including erectile dysfunction, reduced sexual desire, and infertility. Testes might become smaller as well.
♥ Changes in sleep patterns, either with insomnia or increased fatigue.
♥ Physical changes such as increased body fat, reduced muscle mass and strength, and decreased bone density, sensitive breasts (gynecomastia), and body hair loss.
♥ Emotional changes such as decreased motivation or self- confidence and increased bouts of depression.
♥ Trouble concentrating or remembering things.
♥ Though far more likely in women going through menopause, it is also possible for men to experience hot flashes.
As all of these symptoms can indicate other ailments such as thyroid problems or medication side effects, a blood test is the only way to properly diagnose a decrease in testosterone.
Though the prospect of aging and menopause is often met with trepidation and depression in many women, Dr. Louann Brizendine and author of The Female Brain, argues “the change will set you free.”
For the 150,000 women who enter menopause each month in America alone, this may be revolutionary news. As Dr. Brizendine sees it, the decline in hormones that comes with menopause allows for a whole new approach to life that can be equal parts confusing and liberating.
Fundamentally, menopause marks the end of the “mommy brain” that had previously put a higher focus on the needs of others, especially children and romantic partners. As the ebb and flow of estrogen and progesterone levels out, the call to be a caretaker decreases as the production of oxytocin declines sharply. Dr. Brizendine points out that the “estrogenized brain” is more wired to be nurturing and protective of our relationships. However, menopause causes a decrease in estrogen, which places the level closer to that of the amount of testosterone women carry. These new hormone levels makes a woman’s brain more like a man’s so she may become more prone to anger or, at the very least, less likely to embrace a path of passivity.
These changes have great potential to create conflict in romantic relationships because there can be tremendous shifts in how a woman reacts to situations, and how she perceives her role in a partnership. She may be more prone to angry outbursts and less able to overlook things when they disappoint, aggravate or offend her. According to Dr.
Brizendine, after the age of menopause, 65% of divorces are initiated by women, pointing
to the dramatic shift in what they are willing to tolerate after these hormonal changes finally settle down.
Aging Is An Honor
“When men and women are able to respect and accept their differences then love has a chance to blossom.” – Dr. John Gray
The brain itself goes through some changes over the course of a lifetime as well. The Dana Foundation is a private philanthropic organization committed to advancing brain research and to educating the public on the scientific discoveries of how the brain works. In their extensive reference guide, The Dana Guide to Brain Health, their team of medical experts dedicates a lot of time to how the brain evolves over the course of a lifetime. About the aging process, they state, “The most important trait the brain brings to adulthood and through the end of life can be summed up in one word, “plasticity.’”
Neuroscientists created the term plasticity to define the brain’s biological evolution when confronted with new experiences or change. This is how we learn, develop, and break habits, adjust to new situations and surroundings, and cope with surprises, changes,
challenges, and opportunities that make up the process of living. Without this plasticity, every new encounter would remain scary and uncertain.
As age progresses, the thick bundle of nerve fibers known as the corpus callosum decrease in size. It is through these fibers that the two halves of the brain pass messages, so this would create a delay in what might have previously been an immediate response. Additionally, the ability to quickly, easily and coherently shift focus from one task or idea to another begins to weaken, starting at middle age, which can lead to a response of irritability toward distractions that used to be more easily managed.
Also, the ability to choose NOT to pay attention to something we consider unimportant — a ticking clock, a neighbor’s loud party, the drip of a leaky faucet — is not a skill we are born with, but one that we learn in early development and it begins to weaken later in life, which can add to a sense of being easily distracted.
“The brain is primed to focus on what changes, rather than what remains in a steady state.”– Sandra J. Ackerman
As the scientific and medical fields have begun to properly diagnose people with Alzheimer’s disease, the concept of senility being a part of the aging process has slowly gone away. While the speed with which things can be done both mentally and physically may be slowed down a bit, a majority of brain functions remain intact throughout a lifetime. Just because your body may not work well on the outside doesn’t mean that it won’t work well on the inside.
Allow yourself to appreciate, relax, relish and accept pleasant experiences. Start saying “yes” to more positive moments and “no” to people making demands on your valuable time, as it’s the most precious gift to give to yourself. Know that a disability or chronic
illness does not equal a disabled sex drive.
NEURO-CISE: STAYING YOUTHFUL, SOLO
While some aspects of aging can’t be controlled, there are many things that will help ensure a longer life, both mentally and physically. The Harvard Medical School offers twelve ways to help your brain retain its power.
1. Get mental stimulation.
Like any other muscle in the body, the brain only stays strong if it’s being used and challenged regularly. Learn a new skill, read about interesting topics, and work on puzzles that require concentration, do craftwork that requires dexterity such as drawing or painting. Create a scrapbook of your relationship or create the love life that you want to manifest with pictures.
2. Get physical exercise.
Exercise inspires the development of new nerve cells and increases the synapses between brain cells. This supports an efficient, flexible and adaptive brain while also creating a host
of health benefits, such as lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, and reduction in mental stress. Kiss the left side of your partner’s body to stimulate the right side of their brain. Hold hands using your non-dominant hand to trigger the opposite side of the brain. Sexual activity is a great workout for your pelvic floor muscles and orgasms cause
contractions that also strengthen them.
3. Improve your diet.
Nutrition is as important to a healthy brain as it is to a healthy body. A reduced caloric intake has been shown to lower the risk of mental decline. Not only do you need to eat LESS you also need to eat BETTER by reducing the consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol from animal sources and of trans-fatty acids from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Dementia has been linked to high levels of homocysteine, which can be reduced by increasing your intake of the three B vitamins, folic acid, B6, and B12. Fortified cereal, other grains, and leafy green vegetables are good sources of B vitamins. Feed each other phallic looking vegetables and fruits to boost your health and your libido at the same time.
4. Improve your blood pressure.
High blood pressure in midlife increases the risk of cognitive decline in old age. Many of the ideas outlined in this list help control blood pressure, so stay lean, exercise regularly, limit your alcohol to two drinks a day, reduce stress, and eat right. Research suggests a link between sex and lower blood pressure, says Joseph J. Pinzone, MD. He is CEO and medical
director of Amai Wellness. “One landmark study found that sexual intercourse specifically (not masturbation) lowered systolic blood pressure.”
5. Improve your blood sugar.
Diabetes is an important risk factor for dementia. You can fight diabetes by eating right, exercising regularly, and staying lean. But if your blood sugar stays high, you’ll need
medication to achieve good control.
6. Improve your cholesterol.
High levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol increase the risk of dementia, as do low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Diet, exercise, weight control, and avoiding tobacco will go a long
way toward improving your cholesterol levels. But if you need more help, ask your doctor about medication.
7. Consider low-dose aspirin.
Observational studies suggest that long-term use of aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may reduce the risk of dementia by 10%–55%. It’s hopeful
information, but it’s preliminary. Experts are not ready to recommend aspirin specifically for dementia.
8. Avoid tobacco.
I can’t imagine you need me to explain this in any greater detail, but you might not know that smoking makes the taste of your body’s juices turn bitter. Quit smoking, and you’ll live
longer and taste better. Enough said.
9. Don’t abuse alcohol.
Alcoholic intake is an interesting balancing act because excessive drinking has been linked to dementia while moderate drinking has been shown to reduce the risk of dementia. It is
recommended that if you are going to drink, that you limit yourself to two drinks a day. According to the National Institute of Health, alcohol increases the risks of sexual dysfunction and can affect one’s abilities in the bedroom. Not only that, but too much booze can cloud your judgment and increase the likelihood of having unprotected sex.
10. Care for your emotions.
Mental health and restful sleep are important tools in maintaining cognition. Taking the necessary steps to reduce and fight anxiety, depression, and exhaustion can go a long
way toward supporting long time mental fortitude. If you’re single, make sure that you have control of your emotions before you have sex with a new partner.
11. Protect your head.
Head injuries increase the risk of cognitive impairment in old age with concussions increasing risk by a factor of 10. Wear a helmet when it makes sense for the task and remain aware of your surroundings and the risk of head trauma.
12. Build social networks.
Life expectancy is increased in those with healthy social circles, so get out more often and make a commitment to becoming fully engaged in the community, especially if you’re single.
Researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found that People who have regular sex take fewer sick days because they have higher levels of a certain antibody that defends the body against germs, viruses, and other intruders.
Researchers at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland conducted a long-term study of 3,500 people between the ages of 30 and 101 and found that regular sex may shave between four and seven years off your physical appearance, which leads me to believe that sex has no expiration date!
NEURO-CISE: SEXY SENIOR, DUO
“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”– John F. Kennedy
Many make the mistake of thinking that the key to a spicier sex life at any age requires a different partner. This is especially true for couple’s that have been together for a decade or more. It’s assumed that everything has been tried and that you both know each other so
well that there’s no longer the element of surprise that makes a new partner so exciting.
This isn’t true at all. Rediscovering a passionate connection between long-time partners can be as simple as making one single change or addition. As age settles in, we sometimes associate adventure, excitement and “sexual spiciness” with youth, but why should the young folks have all the fun? If you’ve earned your AARP card, you’ve earned your right to the good life. It’s only true that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” if you keep on throwing the same bone in the same way.
Here’s four ways to spice things up, regardless of age or limitations.
1. Do something new together.
Sometimes the best way to add some excitement in the bedroom is to add some excitement in your life. And the newer the activity, the greater the increase of the feel good brain chemical dopamine, so don’t settle for small new (a different restaurant) when you can go for big new (a weekend cooking or health retreat).
2. Surprise your partner.
There’s nothing sexier than a meaningful surprise. With couples that have been together a long time, a rut of routine can be easily remedied with a surprise. Don’t wait for holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries to do the special things that say, “I still choose you.”
3. Switch it up.
After many years of sex with the same person, the actual act of making love can take on certain predictability. Something as simple as a different position (or a small change to a usual position) can add a healthy spark to the experience.
4. Move it out.
Get out of the bedroom. There’s a game many newlyweds play when they get into their first home where they make it a goal to have sex in EVERY room, including the yard,
garage, shed, pool, and greenhouse. Maybe it’s time for you and your partner to take a new tour of your old house.