Is male menopause the unspoken taboo of men’s health?

Health and wellbeing entrepreneur Ross Tomkins is on a mission to educate British men about a taboo and unspoken subject in men’s health: The ‘andropause’ – also known as the male menopause 

Ross (pictured above) is an author, investor, entrepreneur and qualified physiotherapist who recently co-founded Alphagenix to help investigate, diagnose and treat low testosterone levels and, ultimately, educate people and improve quality of life for men in the UK.

The andropause is the male equivalent of the female menopause, which we are much more familiar with.  

Testosterone is a vital component within the body that is often associated with libido and plays a vital role in sperm production.

The production of testosterone starts in puberty and then peaks at around 30 in men and then begins to dip and decline.

Left unchecked, low testosterone levels can weaken bones causing osteoporosis, reduce muscle mass, low mood, poor mental clarity, even the way men store fat in their body and red blood cell production can be adversely affected.

Even more alarmingly, an article published in the Journal Of Endocrinology and Metabolism has linked low testosterone to an increased risk of death and another in The Journal of the American Medical Association linked low levels to an increased disease severity of COVID-19. 

Ross says that, for many years, this has been a taboo subject because of men’s fear of being emasculated.

At the core of the diagnosis is a low testosterone count, which leads to a wide range of symptoms, including low energy, reduced muscle mass or muscle weakness, poor focus, depression, obesity, insomnia, lack of libido, a lack of motivation and lowered self-confidence.

While the changing hormonal levels in women during the menopause are much more widely understood, accepted and treated, the andropause has become a subject that men don’t understand or talk about, let alone seek treatment for.

Ross says Alphagenix hopes to make the andropause as acceptable and talked about as men’s mental health has now become.

He was first diagnosed at the age of 32, after having encountered a number of symptoms that included aching joints, a complete lack of focus and brain-fog.

His GP at the time suggested that perhaps his symptoms were ‘all in his head’, prompting Ross to search for a private physician with an interest in men’s health.

After a 60-minute consultation, Ross was diagnosed with low testosterone and an iodine deficiency.

The diagnosis was confirmed by tests and Ross began his first Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) and an iodine supplement.

In a matter of days, Ross felt the huge benefits of his treatment, while the private physician made further lifestyle recommendations and changes, including a specific diet.

Since his diagnosis 11 years ago, Ross has led a full and active life with a beautiful family – and is a highly successful entrepreneur, having started six companies, selling four of them and acquiring a further six companies.  

Earlier this year, Ross realised that he rarely shared his hormonal journey, which led him to think about how many other men were out there, not sharing their stories – or worse: not receiving the help they needed.

He decided to set up Alphagenix with business partner Ben Paglia, who is the MD of AKEA Life, the UK’s first five-star, fully private concierge doctor service. 

The core aim of Alphagenix is to raise awareness of the andropause; to educate men about what the male menopause is and its associated symptoms, and to debunk the myths around low testosterone levels in men.

The ultimate aim is to help men get investigated, diagnosed and treated. 

Conscious of his own experiences with doctors and treatment, Ross wanted to create a unique, personalised and quality-led service with Alphagenix that not only provides education, investigation, diagnosis and treatment, but then ensures continual monitoring, with periodic blood tests and consultations.

As someone with a 20-year career in the healthcare and well-being sector and who has been on the andropause journey himself, he built the core foundations of Alphagenix on first-hand knowledge and personal experience. 

“As someone who has experienced the andropause and been on this journey since I was first diagnosed, I felt it was really important for me to share my own experiences of my hormonal journey with other men and to raise awareness of this taboo subject,” says Ross.

“Much like mental health, men often don’t discuss these topics, or they have a fear that by discussing the subject it will in some way emasculate them. 

“It’s really important that men educate themselves about the andropause and get themselves tested to check their hormone levels.

“The andropause can affect men in many different ways and impact on their performance at work, relationships and their general ability to function on a daily basis.

“Other factors can also contribute, such as a lack of exercise, poor diet, lack of sleep and drinking too much alcohol. As men, we need to take much greater care of our hormonal health and our general wellbeing.”

Meg Mathews, ex-wife of Oasis Star Noel Gallagher, has been one of the UK’s foremost menopause campaigners and is a regular columnist for Stella Magazine. Meg was recently quoted on the subject as saying:

“The male menopause is no myth. I’ve found men really struggle to open up about anything personal – there is a lot of embarrassment and denial about it.

“They may pluck up the courage to go and see the doctor, skirt around the subject and then leave without a diagnosis.

“By the time they feel ready to open up, the appointment time is over. Doctors can be quick to prescribe anti-depressants or Viagra without solving the emotional or physical symptoms.

“If more men opened up and talked about the andropause, the NHS would take it more seriously.”

Alphagenix has a team of private doctors provided by BMP Medical Ltd who are all UK-trained and registered with the General Medical Council (GMC). They continue to work in the NHS and private consulting.

Alphagenix’s services are registered and regulated by the Care Quality Commission in the UK.

Clinical lead for Alphagenix is Dr Usman Sajjad, a GP with a special interest in sports exercise medicine, as well as the andropause.

Having qualified as a doctor in 2014 from the University of Leeds and as a GP in 2020, Dr Sajjad has worked in top-level sports such as premier league football, rugby and professional boxing.

He is currently employed as the personal doctor for several high-profile professional boxers, some of whom are current world champions.

Having suffered personally from severe hypogonadism for a lot of 2020, Dr Sajjad understood how a low testosterone impacted physical and mental health.

He also competed as a superheavyweight amateur boxer from 2010 to 2014.

His personal experience and recovery motivated him to join Alphagenix to help other men who are suffering with similar issues.

He is an academic member of the European Academy of Andrology and also runs his own ‘The Doctor Uz Podcast’, in which he touches on a wide variety of subjects and interviews notable guests.

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