The Aging Process-Part VI-Aging in Males

As we have written elsewhere, one of the most obvious features of human aging involves hormonal changes as measured by hormone serum concentrations in the blood. (See articles on process of aging) This can be clearly seen in the specific event in the female of menopause.

Menopause is the cessation of the menstrual cycle and it marks an important chronobiological stage in the life span of the female. Specifically, it indicates the end of the reproductive cycle. Yet, in the male, there is no such clear-cut event and thus no specific developmental stage appears to exist. Witness putative fathers ages over 70 years.

Nevertheless, there are clear signs of hormonal changes that signify aging in the male. The process is called "andropause" and can be seen in the age-related hormonal changes in plasma levels of testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEAS) and melatonin which, as the levels of these hormones change in the body, have there consequences on the individual. Other hormonal changes may be subtler and may involve such concepts as hemodynamic shear stress, which may regulate endothelial function and gene expression and give rise to atherosclerosis via enhancing the inflammatory components of the body. (See: Malek a., Alper SI. Izumo S. Hemodynamic Shear Stress and Its Role in Artherosclerosis. JAMA 1999; Vol. 282, #21:2035-2042). Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of death in the developed world.

Note: Administering DHEA may protect against development of atherosclerosis, but no robust relationship has been demonstrated between plasma DHEAS and coronary artery disease or myocardial infarction or any other chronic disease associated with the aging process.

The hormonal changes lead to a range of symptoms that include general decrease in libido and sexual activity. There is a decrease in general well being, muscle mass and strength, as well as an increase of incidence of impotency. A greater migration of adipose fat to the central part of the body ("middle age spread") also takes place. A tendency for cognitive performance to decline takes place and there are more incidents of forgetting and increase in sleep disturbances. There are great individual differences in these processes among men, which creates a more gradual, less defined stage of aging in males.

Many of these changes are subtle and do not show up until hormonal changes get further away from the normative range of these hormones levels and indications are that they usually start manifesting themselves in the fiftieth year of the male life span.

The question scientists are asking is whether the process can be stopped or whether the process is the result of subtle pathological process and represents disease, rather than normative developmental stage. Nutrition, physical exercise as well as chronic stress affect hormonal levels. Chronic stresses evoke prolonged distress which can influence cardiovascular, immune and endocrine function, changes in which can enhance a variety of health threats.

The sad thing in our society is that most Americans do not exercise. A recent statement on a CNN segment about health indicated that 60% of adults are completely sedentary.

Health is an important concept, with very little chance of instant replay. Chronological age is a given. Biological age is something we all may do something about. Take charge of your health.

Go Back to Article I of Articles on Aging-Mortality risk factors
The Aging Process-Part II-Gender Difference
The Aging Process-Part III-Cellular Senescence
The Aging Process-Part IV-Biological Aging
Go to Article V of Articles on Aging-Arteriosclerosis
The Aging Process-Part VII-Aging in Women
The Aging Process-Part VIII-Infectious Disease
Process of Aging-Part IX-DHEA
The Aging Process-Part X-Skin, Skeleton and Brain
The Aging Process:-Part XI-Apotosis and the Elderly
The Aging Process-Part XII-Biomarkers for Aging
The Aging Process- Part XIII- Body Odors


Harold Rubin, MS, ABD, CRC, Guest Lecturer
January 11, 2000

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