November 27, 1995
Web posted at: 7:00 a.m. EST
From Medical Correspondent Dan Rutz
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- More than half the middle-aged or older men surveyed in a recent Gallup poll claim they feel younger than their actual age. But close to two-thirds say they believe men go through a change of life similar to menopause in women.
In menopause, women's female sex hormones decline rapidly over several years. As a rule, men lose their sex hormones much more gradually. As one doctor puts it -- women fall off a cliff, men sort of roll down the hill.
Even so, many people believe there's a true change of life for men.
"I think that many men experience a mid-life crisis," one man said, "which may be triggered by an imbalance or a modification of male hormones. Testosterone, I suppose." (192K AIFF sound or 192K WAV sound)
Dr. Lisa Tenover of the Emory University Medical Center thinks there is something to the idea of male menopause. She studies the effects of hormone replacement in men. Tenover believes hormone replacement might help at least some people, but there's a lot to learn about long-term effects.
"The problem is we're about 20 years behind knowing about what roles male hormones do in older men relative to what we know about what estrogens do in post-menopausal women," she says. (120K AIFF sound or 120K WAV sound)
For men with known testosterone deficiencies, hormone replacement can increase energy, strength, libido and possibly bone density, and fight depression.
But too much testosterone may aggravate some of the most common problems of aging in men. The hormone may speed progression of benign or cancerous prostate diseases. Also unclear is what effects excess testosterone may have on the heart.
A drug company paid for the Gallup poll on men's mid-life attitudes, and the poll was released just as its testosterone patch, an alternative to the injection method, hit the market.
Greater convenience and marketing hype could increase pressure on doctors to prescribe testosterone. And, since as many as a third of all elderly men may have abnormally low levels, Tenover says it may make sense to treat at least some of them.
"As long as they're properly screened an properly monitored, together in a trial," she said. "And lots of times it's a trial because there's huge placebo effect with sex steroids. So usually I treat people for at least six months because I find that almost everybody thinks they get better the first two to three..."
One of Tenover's research subjects, 74-year-old John Lundeen, says he's feels great.
"I've always been a very healthy sort of person and take good care of myself and keep a 36-inch waist and 170 pounds and moderately good behavior," he says. (152K AIFF sound or 152K WAV sound)
Lundeen doesn't know if he is receiving the hormone or not -- but if he is, he says he hopes the doctors don't cut him off.
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