Testosterone is a very important hormone to help both men and women maintain proper health and performance. That’s why low testosterone can be so devastating and cause so many problems. In this comprehensive guide, you will learn about low testosterone along with common symptoms, dangers, and causes.
Testosterone is a steroid hormone responsible for the growth and development of male sex organs and maintenance of secondary sexual characteristics.1 It also influences mood, memory, metabolism, bone density, energy, and ability to burn fat and build muscle. Signals from the brain release testosterone from the testicles. In women, testosterone is produced in the ovaries as well as the adrenal glands. Testosterone binds to receptors inside the body’s cells where it exerts its effects.
Symptoms of low testosterone include decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction, infertility, gynecomastia (enlarged breasts in men), impaired masculinization, decreased muscle mass, and increased body fat (especially abdominal fat), reductions in body and facial hair, and osteoporosis (low bone density). In addition, men with low testosterone report levels of anger, confusion, depression, and fatigue that are significantly higher than those reported by men with normal testosterone levels.
It is important to note that many of these symptoms are nonspecific, meaning they can be caused by things other than low testosterone. Therefore, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to get a full evaluation by a knowledgeable healthcare professional. For example, low testosterone can cause erectile dysfunction, but so can vascular disease and unrecognized diabetes, both of which can be fatal.
There is mounting evidence that low testosterone may predict other serious medical conditions, and that men with low testosterone have a greater chance of dying prematurely than men with higher levels.
A large research study published in the very highly-respected medical journal Circulation demonstrated an inverse relationship between blood testosterone levels and mortality from cardiovascular disease and “all causes.”2 Another study concluded that “testosterone insufficiency in older men is associated with increased risk of death over the following 20 year independent of multiple risk factors and several preexisting health conditions.”3
Additionally, there is a connection between low testosterone and sleep apnea (a condition in which a person essentially stops breathing during sleep) and diabetes. Low testosterone can even be used as a predictor of the development if prediabetes and diabetes.4
There can be several causes of low testosterone, which include:
Traditional medicine defines low testosterone (or hypogonadism) as a blood level less than 300 ng/dl. Thus, many doctors will only treat if the level is less than 300. A person with symptoms of low testosterone and a level of 350 will often be refused treatment. However, there are alternative medical practitioners who believe that anyone with less than a “healthy” level of testosterone should be treated. What constitutes a healthy level is not currently defined, but these practitioners often aim for levels above 700, and maybe even higher with a younger patient who “should” have levels even above that. As with all medical treatments, there is a risk to benefit ratio and it is up to the patient and his doctor to decide whether the benefits outweigh the risks.
Elevating testosterone, either by medicine, supplementation, or lifestyle modification brings numerous benefits.7 These include improving energy and mood, decreasing body fat and increasing muscle mass, increasing done density, increasing sex drive and erectile function and improving insulin sensitivity. Also, as noted above, it appears that men with higher testosterone levels live longer.
The most troublesome potential risk of raising testosterone levels, and this relates primarily to medical replacement therapy, is that a silent prostate cancer may be “fed and unmasked” by supplying outside testosterone. Other risks include worsening of cholesterol, increased red blood cell counts and enlargement of the prostate. The connection between prostate issues and testosterone replacement therapy is not overly clear, and different research studies often yield conflicting results. Again, it is important to weight risks versus benefits when deciding on testosterone replacement therapy.
A combination of optimizing body composition, reducing stress, consistent exercise, and a focus on eating whole foods can help raise low testosterone levels. Other effective methods may include supplementation and medical hormone replacement.
For more information, check out 5 Scientifically Proven Ways To Increase Testosterone Levels.