I believe this is an issue that has affected many older men, and if nothing is done will affect more and more individuals at increasingly younger ages.
I would first like to preface this by saying that I am not a medical doctor, but have experience working with individuals of all levels of the spectrum as both a Personal Trainer and Physical Therapist Assistant. This is an article meant to share my experience, and hopefully provide valuable information that can help others that are in a similar situation.
My Grandfather had just turned 84 years of age. Like most other men that age he was suffering from some complications due to an enlarged prostate. Other than that, he was in pretty good health other than some angina from time to time. All other measurable areas were within normal limits, and he was completely independent, even driving short distances safely. All of this was most likely due to a highly active lifestyle his whole life (even though he had never once stepped foot in a gym,) and a ” Health Kick” he had been on for the past 30 years ever since he had a little health scare with a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack.) Both Angina and a TIA have no long term lasting effects, and can normally be treated.
So he went to the doctor to see what can be done about the enlarged prostate, as it was getting pretty uncomfortable for him to urinate (along with waking up multiple times during the night to urinate.) At this time the doctor had some concerns due to his PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) number, and immediately wanted to take a biopsy of his prostate to check for cancer. At this point I would just like to point out that a high PSA is not necessarily indicative of having cancer, it is just a warning sign. No one has ever died from a high PSA number alone. My grandfather refused the biopsy as he was concerned with some side effects that could occur from getting the biopsy. My grandfather asked if there was anything else he could do. They started him on Flo-Max which it seems like 90% of men over the age of 60 are on these days. This seemed to help with the issues he was having urinating, and got him to a much more manageable level.
Everything solved, right? Wrong. His PSA continued to creep up higher and higher, and even though he was suffering no symptoms, the doctor still pushed very hard for him to get the biopsy. It is important to note that one of the reasons a man’s prostate enlarges, and PSA numbers rise has to do with testosterone. As men get older, testosterone in the system can make a conversion into the chemical DHT. DHT is responsible for a number of male issues including loss of hair, the breakdown of muscle, and enlargement of the prostate which could lead to cancer. Testosterone itself, however, is a huge factor in good cardiovascular health (prevents heart disease,) helps to maintain vitality, neuro-muscular function, and sex drive. So my grandfather was suffering from a classic catch 22. Seeing that his testosterone was recently measured at 430 at the age of 86, it is highly likely that my grandfather had high levels of testosterone the majority of his life, which had led to his good health, and high level of function well into his 80s. On the flip side, this high testosterone was also most likely the culprit of his enlarged prostate and elevated PSA.
About 4 years had passed, and my grandfather had been regularly getting his PSA number checked. The doctor at this point was convinced that my grandfather had cancer, even though no test had showed it. The doctor recommended a new drug for my grandfather that would reduce his free testosterone. The body would recognize the drug as a synthetic form of testosterone, even though it does not act in the body as testosterone. The body would be fooled into thinking its levels of testosterone were sufficient, and shut down its natural production. Let me remind you that my grandfather was suffering from NO symptoms other than his high PSA number, and showed no signs of cancer that could spread to other areas of the body. A choice now had to be made. My grandfather decided to go with the doctor’s suggestion even though my recommendation was for him not to take the drug. What ensued was a course of events that I believe has resulted in an amazing breakthrough for the health and wellness of the geriatric population.
So the drug did exactly what it was supposed to. My grandfather’s testosterone levels sunk incredibly low in a relatively short amount of time (single digits low.) One of the first symptoms my grandfather really started to notice was a generalized weakness down into the legs. This weakness gradually became more severe, and then was accompanied by some neuropathy (numbness and tingling) down into the leg. At first it was more of a nuisance, but gradually began giving him trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Then, as what normally happens in these situations as an elderly individual begins to decline, he started having some falls. We were very lucky though, and he suffered no serious injury as a result from the falls. This was a huge deal, because in a fragile state if someone like my grandfather falls there is a high chance he could break something resulting in a huge loss of mobility and independence. Once this occurs it does not take long for your average elderly person to really start losing a great deal of their function. At any age the body adapts based on the demands placed on it. So when training, the goal is to place more demands on the body in order to cause a positive adaption of the body. The reverse is also true for aging individuals. If as you get older you place less and less demands on the body, a negative body adaption will ensue. For an individual that is still relatively high functioning this might simply result in symptoms like fatigue, muscle atrophy, or weakness. However, take someone like my grandfather and make them non-weight bearing for a period of time and this may result in the ability to no longer stand or walk. Once you can no longer stand or walk independently then this means that the individual will being doing even less, which could lead to more negative body adaptions for the long run. Research has shown that the ability to be able to get up and down is directly correlated to the duration and quality of life as we get older (http://fitness.mercola.com/…/2013/01/25/sitting-rising-test…) .