An Open Letter to 35 year old men everywhere…
Look at you! You’re doing pretty well. You’re making a decent living, the kids are getting older and you are imagining a future weekend without a having to drive to baseball practice or sit through an endless dance recital. Your job is going well, even though you may not love what you’re doing, you are doing it well and continue to climb the ladder. You and your wife are still intimate and sometimes you make love more than once a week. You still look forward to the weekend dinners with the neighbors down the street (you share nothing in common with them other than having similar aged kids, living on the same street, and a slight problem with alcohol, but you still consider them your close friends). You have some drinks, you workout when you can squeeze it in, and you seem to be in control and living like most men in your demographic. You probably are thinking that you have life by the balls and maybe some of you actually do. But let me tell you something…it’s all about to change.
This is a cautionary tale and its purpose is to provide you with something that most men don’t acquire until they reach the ripe old age of 40. It’s called awareness and it could save your marriage, your career, and even your life. So listen up!
In most of the ‘rich’ world, we spend our lives working at the expense of our health, and then use our accumulated wealth to try and recapture our health. (The Dalai Lama says this all the time!). The medical community has largely been trained to treat and not prevent. So when you begin exhibiting the symptoms of an ‘older’ gentleman, things like sleeplessness, lack of energy, erectile dysfunction, muscle loss, flabby midsection, and depression, you or your spouse may schedule a doctor’s appointment. At this appointment, you will likely be prescribed something to help you sleep (Ambien), something to make your little friend stand tall again (Viagra/Cialis), something to improve your outlook (Wellbutrin, Lexapro, Zoloft), and be told to lose a few pounds. This appointment is your official welcome to the old guy’s club.
Why does this happen? As we age, a series of changes begin to occur in the body and these changes are evidenced by wrinkles, gray hair, saggy skin, loss of muscle, the heart gets slightly bigger and slower, bone density is reduced, gums recede, constipation sets in along with other uncomfortable digestive issues, memory loss, vision and hearing are reduced, we gain weight, our bladders don’t function like they used to, and the dreaded reduction in sex drive occurs. I remember an old timer telling me once, “Never pass up a chance to take a piss, never trust a fart, and never waste an erection.” This pretty much sums up what it’s like as men get older.
What can you do differently? First, you can be proactive and begin implementing a mindset focused on prevention and anti-aging. Secondly, you can begin requesting annual blood screening/lipid panel testing. Your blood contains a great deal of information concerning your present and future health and will provide you with a road map to a healthier future. This will only happen if you apply your awareness, or pay attention to this advice, so once again…listen up! Your blood reveals potential cardiac concerns, such as total cholesterol, HDL (High Density Lipoprotein, which is the good stuff…I always remember it as the ‘Highly Desireable’), LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein or ‘Least Desirable), Triglycerides, which is a type of fat (lipid) in your bloodstream and high levels can increase your risk of heart disease. Your annual blood screen will also provide a comprehensive metabolic panel and provide you with information about your glucose (blood sugar) levels, and other important indicators, such as sodium, potassium, and provide clues on how your liver is functioning. A CBC, or Complete Blood Count provides you with your white (infection fighting) and red (oxygen-carrying) blood cell counts and your platelet count, which provide your blood it’s ability to prevent clotting. Other important factors, like Thyroid Stimulating Hormone levels and Prostate Specific Antigen are tested to unearth any potential problems. Lastly, you should make sure that your annual blood screen includes a measure of your testosterone (male sex hormone androgen) levels. Most tests measure your levels of free testosterone, which is testosterone in the blood not bound to a protein called sex hormone binding globulin, or SHBG. Male testosterone levels typically range between 250ng/dl and 1000ng/dl. These reference levels aren’t optimized but rather averages of men between the ages of 20 and 80 years. As we age, our testosterone naturally decreases and many of the symptoms described earlier are a direct result of this decrease in testosterone.
What can you do?
If you commit to an annual blood screen beginning in your early to mid-thirties, you are well on your way to getting in front of the pejorative and sensitive issues surrounding the aging process. In my personal experience, I waited too long. My testosterone levels, which I discovered were never high to being with, bottomed out in my late thirties, and led me down a path of poor career decisions, obesity, reliance on prescription anti-depressants, despair, sexual health problems, and worst of all, I allowed my marriage to fail. After complaining to my doctor about some of the issues listed above, he agreed to order a blood screen. I was 42 years old . Once I began therapy to increase my testosterone levels, my life changed almost immediately. I dropped weight, added muscle, slept better, became interested in sex again, and I mean super interested, like I was 24 again! My outlook improved and for the first time in 8 years I no longer relied on Wellbutrin to get me through the day. I dropped 100 lbs and became an athlete for the first time in my life. I saw hope and opportunity and was no longer the negative sad sack I was before. I was a man. I came all the way back. I don’t know if you will have similar results and you may never need to engage in replacement therapy, but you need to become aware. And you need to do it sooner than later.