The Complete Guide to Low Testosterone
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is a hormone, produced predominantly by the testicles in men and to a lesser degree the ovaries in women. Production of testosterone in the human body generally begins with the onset of puberty when obvious physical developmental signs such as hair growth, size and voice change occur. Generally, the production wains in your thirties and by sixty approximately one in five men will experience low testosterone, with its prevalence increasing with age.
Testosterone’s primary role in the body is its effect on sex drive, and is crucial for sperm production. It travels through the body in two ways, either attaching to proteins albumin and to sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) or free, unattached to proteins.
Other effects of testosterone on the body are the development of muscle mass, bone density, fat storage and the production of red blood cells. Diagnosis of low T is when levels of testosterone decrease and register below 300 nanograms per decilitre. Testing for low testosterone is a simple blood test is performed to identify T levels, normal range is between 300 to 1000 nanograms per decilitre according to the FDA.
A low testosterone reading may also be due to problematic hypothalamus or pituitary gland, which dictates the body’s production of testosterone.
What are the symptoms of Low Testosterone?
Decline in sex drive
Also known as libido, testosterone levels significantly affect a man’s sex drive. This reduction may naturally decline with age, however a radical reduction in craving of sex is a key indicator of Low T.
Testosterone not only stimulates sex drive, it helps with erectile function, that being an erection. Low testosterone will limit a man’s ability to readily achieve an erection prior to intercourse and limit spontaneous nocturnal erections. The reason for this symptom may relate to receptors in the brain that produce the molecule nitric oxide. This triggers a sequence of chemical reactions to the brain that a vital for achieving an erection, there are other causes for erection difficulties including erectile dysfunction (impotency) or other health conditions including;
- High blood pressure
- Thyroid issues
- High cholesterol
- Substance abuse
- Stress and anxiety
Muscle mass reduction
Muscle mass declines in most of us over the age of thirty, if a noticeable decline occurs low testosterone may be the cause.
Reduction in semen excretion
Often males with low T will notice a reduction in their semen volume during ejaculation, testosterone aids in the production of semen. Low semen production effects the mobility of sperm and may impact on fertility or procreation.
Whilst hair loss or balding is often a hereditary factor in men, testosterone does have a role in hair production and men experiencing facial or body hair loss may be due to decreased testosterone levels in their bodies.
Disproportional body fat
Sometimes appearing as ‘man boobs’, engorged breast tissue (gynecomastia). This somewhat embarrassing feature is due to a hormonal imbalance of estrogen and testosterone. There are individual treatments such as Clomiphene and Tamoxofin which can assist in reducing breast size.
Whilst it is widely known that testosterone impacts on both physical and mental body functions. It is difficult to determine whether these mood changes are related simply to men’s concerns based on erectile issues and experiencing anxiety from loss of erection performance.
Fatigue from sleep disruption
Men with low testosterone may experience fatigue and a decrease in energy. Doctors have also discovered a correlation with low testosterone and sleep apnea which is often associated with being overweight.
Decrease in bone mass
Decreased bone mass naturally occurs with age, however, with testosterone playing an important part in strengthening, low testosterone levels may speed this process. Although not readily detected men with low T left untreated may experience a greater susceptibility to injury or fractures.
Reduced testicle size
Men with low T may also notice a reduction in testicle size and softening of the scrotum.
When is the best time to see your doctor?
Whilst low testosterone will not present with any noticeable symptoms, it is often diagnosed by routine doctor visits. It is important to seek medical assistance if you experience any of the above symptoms.
How to treat low testosterone
As discussed, low testosterone becomes more prevalent with age, but fortunately there are treatments available.
There are many drugs on the market for Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) and generally results are experienced in 4-6 weeks. These medications come in different forms and varying doses commonly;
What can you do to help prevent low testosterone?
A healthy lifestyle is beneficial for any form of medical complaints and includes maintaining healthy testosterone levels. Following are just a few of the lifestyle changes to help achieve a healthier you;
- Healthy diet, nutrient rich – such as eggs, milk, tuna, whole cereal, shellfish, oysters, green vegetables
- Regular exercise – 30 minutes 5 times a week
- Weight loss – your new healthy diet and exercise should naturally achieve this
- Limit alcohol intake – 4 units a week
- Stop smoking – we all know about this
- Adequate sleep – minimum 7 hours per night
- Meditation – learn to relax
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The wash up
Firstly, if you have any symptoms listed, it is important to seek medical advice. Information contained in this article is written to help you gain knowledge and improve your general health. Most of them like diet, exercise and quitting smoking you already know, so now is the time to get motivated and make some changes!