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What Your Husband Wants You to Know About His Midlife Health Experience That’s Often Swept Under the Rug

Dr Jeff Foster shines a light on men’s health and what’s crucial for everyone to be aware of as we age.

We are now living the bulk of our productive lives later than ever before, so it’s imperative that if we want to remain active, engaged and fulfilled across all areas of our lives into our 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond – such as relationships, fitness, work and family – that we are physiologically supported to do so.

While there is growing awareness and understanding around menopause, men may also have a menopause-like moment in midlife that is not widely known or talked about. To remove the stigma and taboo, it’s crucial to equally raise awareness about each gender’s experience and the things we will all go through as we navigate our way through our health in midlife.

We sat down with Dr Jeff Foster – BSc (Hons), MB ChB, DRCOG, MRCGP, and committee Member of the British Society of Sexual Medicine, – to shine a light on men’s health and what’s crucial for everyone to be aware of.

Dr Jeff Foster is a men’s health specialist and one of the founders of H3 Health. He is passionate about spreading awareness of men’s health topics, whether by lecturing, writing articles, creating videos and infographics, and of course, seeing patients within the NHS and at his private practice. Before studying medicine, Dr Foster completed an honours degree in Physiology at King’s College London. He then went on to study medicine at Warwick Medical School and has lived and worked in the West Midlands since graduating in 2004. Since 2012, Dr Foster has worked as a GP Partner at a busy practice in Leamington Spa.

“A lot of men are told it’s normal that in your 40s, 50s, 60s, you should be fatter, you shouldn’t want to have sex, you should feel tired, you’ve got kids, and life’s busy, it’s normal. But if you said to a woman, you’re 50, you don’t want to have sex and your body is changing shape, you feel irritable and you can’t concentrate at work, your first thoughts would naturally be that she is going through the menopause,” the doctor explains.

“For guys, however, they’re just told it's part of a busy lifestyle, a normal part of getting older. It is essential that we change this cultural narrative, and have men understand that, while some of this is due to age, for many men, the symptoms they feel are actually a result of a decline or drop in testosterone levels, and has similar effects to the loss of oestrogen that affects menopausal women. Low testosterone is something that can make men’s lives a misery, put a strain on relationships, and increase the risk of multiple illnesses. But just like HRT in menopause, testosterone deficiency is entirely treatable and can literally change the quality and health outcomes for thousands of men".

Dr Foster is a proponent of a proactive approach to health and not waiting until crisis has hit – where you have bucketloads of symptoms and life is a real struggle – before seeking support. This is his list of things everyone should know about men’s health, so we can equally support both genders.

1. Take Charge and Seek Health Tests

It’s important to be passionate about being proactive because if you are more positive about your health you are more likely to take a vested interest in your health. By taking charge and getting a high-quality health check done, we can look at what you need, what your risks are, and what we can do to change things so that in five years from now we will have reduced those risks and improved your overall health. This is preventative medicine, looking at what you might be at risk of and then providing you with the advice and tools to be empowered to reduce that risk. The importance of a health check is not just to say what have I got now, but how can I improve my quality of life, as well as reduce my chances of developing illnesses in the future.

2. Men and Women Aren’t That Different

Men and women aren’t that different when it comes to middle-age hormones. The whole thing about metabolic risk, about bone density, about brain fog, it’s all the same and we treat it the same way, we just treat it with a different hormone. We do best with patients that we treat together as a couple, with their wives or partners. If you’re on the same journey together, everyone does better. If you separate them, and you give a guy testosterone and the partner says they’re dead against treatment or whatever it may be, that can have a horrible effect on the relationship. And the reverse is true, if you give a menopausal women HRT and she starts to feel better and do more, but the husband is low in testosterone, he will resent it and struggle to keep up. You have to have both parties on the same path. It’s a nice way of unifying people as they move through the years.

3. Testosterone Treatment Can Be Life Changing

The evidence for the positive impacts of testosterone is now overwhelming. There was a paper last year in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology published in 2021 called the T4DM study, that looked at the effects of giving testosterone replacement to type 2 diabetics with low testosterone. This paper found that over a 2 year period, those men on testosterone replacement did significantly better than those who attempted lifestyle measures alone. In fact, a significant percentage of men on in the study on testosterone replacement actually reversed their diabetes completely. And it’s very similar to HRT. And I keep coming back to this, but the way forward is changing the mindset and attitudes about what these hormones do. It is now accepted that a low level of testosterone in men is associated with an increased risk of multiple illnesses from heart disease and diabetes, to milder conditions such as high blood pressure, but also a decline in mental health and cognition, and even the risk of reduced bone density (osteoporosis) and fractures. So, your risk of virtually everything is better if you keep your hormones where they should be.