Testosterone is a major player in men’s health. Women also produce testosterone but at much lower amounts than men.
It is important that men maintain healthy testosterone levels throughout their lives or else it can lead to serious problems. A variety of factors such as age influence testosterone production. Testosterone declines with age, so a healthy 20-year-old will have more than a 65-year-old. Male testosterone levels normally range from 300 to 1,000 ng/dL.
Testosterone is the foundation of men’s health. It’s a building block that affects many systems. The Mayo Clinic reports that testosterone impacts:
- Bone density
- Body fat
- Red blood cells
- Sexual functioning
In other words, if your testosterone is too low, you’re more likely to have other problems.
Low Testosterone: Common Problems
Low testosterone is called hypogonadism or “low T.” Men with low testosterone can experience many medical issues. They often say things like, “I don’t feel as strong, vibrant, or young as I did.” Common problems are erectile dysfunction, osteoporosis, depression, decreased energy, and muscle loss. Another serious condition is anemia, or a lack of red blood cells, which makes people feel tired or weak.
Although millions of men have low testosterone, most go undiagnosed. Only 5% receive treatment, according to Dr. Morgentaler. A simple blood test can reveal your level. You can ask your primary care physician for the test. Your doctor may also suggest running the test if you say you have common symptoms.
Testosterone Treatment Improves Men’s Health
Luckily, if you have low testosterone you have many treatment options to choose from. For many years, the only choice was an injection. While many doctors still use injections, there are other treatments. Today, the most common are topical gels. They are easily applied to the skin and absorbed. Another topical option is a testosterone patch. Doctors can also place pellets under your skin. While some oral drugs raise testosterone, they aren’t usually first-line treatments as they tend to have more side effects.
There are many benefits to replacement therapy. A comprehensive review available from the National Institutes of Health found these benefits:
- Better sexual desire and performance
- Greater bone density
- Better mood
- Better quality of life
- More energy
- Better brain functioning
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common problem that often gets worse with age. Researchers found men with low testosterone and ED boosted their sex drives with treatment.
Men with low testosterone were twice as likely to have osteoporosis than healthy men, the review noted. Testosterone worked on different pathways and strengthened bones.
As men get older, they gain body fat and lose muscle. Declining testosterone is to blame. Testosterone therapy reversed this process: men lost fat and gained muscle.
Researchers also found that older men have a lower quality of life, often due to lower testosterone. They have less energy, drive, and happiness. Once their levels rose, they reported being less tired or depressed.
Although the evidence is mixed, some studies showed replacement helped cognitive ability, especially in elderly men. Therapy may also benefit men with anemia. Men with low testosterone produce less hemoglobin.
Testosterone is a steroid your body makes, but it’s still important to have a doctor monitor replacement as they would any new treatment. While many men benefit from testosterone replacement, there are some potential risks. They include acne, less sperm, smaller testes, prostate growth, and gynecomastia (enlarged breasts). Your doctor will likely make sure your prostate, liver, and other organs are healthy before and during treatment. Your hormones will need to be monitored along with other metabolic and blood markers.