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Health often becomes a focus of men's lives as they grow older. Health problems can affect a man's quality of life and ability to work as he ages. And serious health problems often first show up later in life. Emotional health is another important concern for aging men, whose risk of suicide goes up with age. Retirement, death of a spouse, and illness can greatly affect a man's mental health.
The good news is that older men can take steps to improve their health and quality of life. Some health tips (like use sunscreen and don't smoke) are the same as when you were young. Other health tips help you stay well in your older years. Take these steps:
Aspirin can lower your risk of heart attack
Men ages 45 to 79 should take aspirin to lower their risk of heart attack if the benefits of doing so outweigh the possible harm of gastrointestinal bleeding. Discuss with your doctor your personal risk of both heart disease and gastrointestinal bleeding. Together, decide if taking aspirin is right for you.
Can testosterone help older men feel young?
As men age, testosterone therapy can help make up for lower levels of the hormone. But testosterone therapy is controversial. One reason is that this therapy has certain risks. Another reason is that experts don't know what testosterone levels are normal as men age. Your doctor can help you understand the benefits and risks of testosterone therapy so you can decide what's right for you.
- See your doctor regularly, even when you're not sick. Tell your doctor about any changes you notice in your physical or emotional health. Learn the pros and cons of suggested treatment plans and medicines for any health problems you have. Make sure your doctor knows all the medicines, including over-the-counter medicines, and supplements you're taking.
- Find out which screenings and vaccines you need. Some screenings, such as for osteoporosis, or vaccines, such as for shingles, might be new to you. If you ever smoked and are between ages 65 and 75, ask your doctor if you should be screened for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. (It can lead to the sudden bursting of a blood vessel in your stomach.)
- Discuss your sexual health with your doctor. Don't be shy. Remember that:
- A gradual decline in testosterone is normal in healthy males as they age. This is sometimes called aging male syndrome or andropause.
- Older men may be less interested in sex or have fewer erections. But it is not normal to have no interest in sex. Treatment can help many sexual problems.
- If you have more than one sexual partner or have a new sexual relationship, you may be at risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Latex condoms can prevent infections most of the time.
- Unlike women, who no longer can become pregnant once they reach menopause, men still make sperm as they age and can conceive a baby. Use birth control every time you have sex with a woman who can get pregnant.
- Prevent falls. Men are more likely to die from a fall than are women. To help avoid falls, make sure to reduce dangers like loose rugs. Also, make sure you have good lighting, and get your eyes checked. Exercises that increase strength and improve balance can help, too.
- Don't drink too much alcohol. Too much alcohol can make you forgetful or confused. It also can cause or worsen health problems like cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Older people should have no more than one drink per day. You can get help if you drink too much or are abusing drugs.
- Take care of your mouth. Research suggests that good dental habits don't just protect your teeth. They may also prevent inflammations that can affect other parts of your body, including your heart.
- Attend health promotion and wellness events to learn how lifestyle choices and health behaviors can impact your health.
- Stay connected to family and community, particularly in your post-retirement years. Spend time doing activities or hobbies you enjoy, and consider volunteering to help others.
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Aging male syndrome
As men age, they produce less testosterone than they did during their teen years and early adulthood, when production of this hormone peaks. Testosterone helps maintain sex drive, sperm production, pubic and body hair, muscle, and bone.
The decline in testosterone as men age is sometimes called aging male syndrome or late-onset hypogonadism. It's also sometimes called "andropause," like women's decline in hormones is called menopause. But men's testes don't stop making testosterone in the way that women's ovaries stop making estrogen at menopause. And unlike women, who lose their ability to get pregnant when they reach menopause, men do not lose their fertility as they age. Hormone changes may cause other symptoms, though. All men have different experiences. Men's hormone levels go down different amounts, and men may feel many effects or hardly any.
Effects of having less testosterone can include:
- Feeling fat/weight gain
- Problems sleeping
- Less interest in sex
- Feeling nervous or irritable
- Erection problems
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Increased urination
- Loss of energy
- Bone, muscle, and hair loss
If you're having any of these signs of low testosterone, talk to your doctor. Many of these changes can be caused by diseases that can be dangerous and should be ruled out. You can get your testosterone level checked with a simple blood test. But because a normal level of testosterone is different for each man, it may be hard to know if you have low testosterone. If you do have low testosterone, think about visiting a specialist, such as an endocrinologist or urologist, who can discuss possible treatments.
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Content last updated: January 10, 2011.
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