Low Testosterone in Men

September 15, 2011

Testosterone in men is what makes men alive, alert, and focused. Testosterone is crucial in many metabolic processes:

  • muscle tone and mass
  • insulin and sugar metabolism
  • mental alertness
  • positive mood
  • immune health
  • bone strength
  •  sex drive
  • cardiovascular tone

Testosterone levels in men begin a gradual decline at age 40 at an average rate of 1-2% a year. As a result, one may not notice the gradual decline in heart health, mental focus, mood, bone strength until it is quite advance. In addition, many accept the decline in function due to age.

There is fierce debate among anti-aging doctors and general medicine as to the definition of normal aging and what optimum hormone function is healthy to maintain as we age. There is much evidence to suggest that if one is having symptoms affecting one’s sexual or cardiovascular fitness, muscle tone, mental focus, sleep, moods, or weight maintenance, then the decline in testosterone should be considered as a contributing factor deserving treatment. Not all men develop troubling symptoms of the decline.

There is a difference of opinion between doctors in western medicine whether a decline in hormones with age should be treated. On the one hand western medicine treats disease and therefore it struggles to interpret a decline in hormone levels that comes with aging as a “disease” which is its only justification for treatment. However, doctors that take the anti-aging view know that treatment can slow the rate of decline and even optimize testosterone production naturally the sooner it is begun. These doctors do not see the gradual decline in hormones as a disease but as a contributing and workable factor to overall decline in health. Some doctors only test for hormone levels if someone complains about low hormone symptoms. The anti-aging doctors have a different view in terms of seeing the health benefits of optimizing one’s hormone levels to help

  • control cholesterol
  • maintain good cardio vascular health
  • bone health
  • sex drive
  • mental focus, and drive to name a few benefits of having “youthful” hormone levels.

It is clear that the decline of hormones as we age falls in a spectrum. Some individuals will exhibit symptoms and suffer health consequences and others will gently into their golden years disease free. Do you wait to develop a disease or condition before having your hormones checked regularly as part of your annual physical? Knowing your doctor’s philosophy about hormones and whether they are in sync with yours will help you maximize your health care, improve your health and help prevent disease.

Some things you really need to know about low testosterone is that it can pose a serious health risk. It’s not an option to endure if you suffer from weight gain, decreased cardiovascular health, insulin issues, or sexual dysfunction. Low testosterone in men induces insulin resistance. (Kapoor D, Malkin CJ, Channer KS, Jones TH, Androgens, insulin resistance and vascular disease in men. Clin Endocrinol (oxf).2005 Sep:63(3):239-50) This is one reason a man will begin to gain weight and be unable to maintain his muscle tone despite regular exercise as before. What does this look like because the symptoms are often undetectable unless you know what to look for. Typically it a man with a “beer belly” or “pot belly”. That is a tell tale sign of lower testosterone levels, insulin resistance and inflammation. He may not be aware of symptoms and only think he’s packing on a few pounds but inflammation is silent and insulin resistance falls in a spectrum that may only cause mild fatigue initially.

Insulin resistance should be a serious concern. Do not wait until you develop diabetes to seek medical help. Insulin resistance can be completely reversed when addressed before it develops into diabetes. Testosterone is needed in sugar metabolism, insulin regulation and fat metabolism. Research now confirms that low testosterone levels in men for developing metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance) as was evident in men who lost their testicles due to cancer leading them to develop abdominal obesity, insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar. (J. Clin Oncol. 2006 Aug 20;24(24):3979-83; J Clin Oncol.2005 June 1:23 916):3718-25) Obesity also further lowers testosterone through an enzyme made by fat cells called aromatase that converts testosterone to estradiol.

Low testosterone also causes a rise in inflammation and C-reactive protein markers (CRP) contributing to a rise in cancer, arteriosclerosis and other inflammatory conditions including more obesity!

Optimal free serum testosterone in men should be between 20-25 pg/mL. Even diabetic men have been shown to get more benefit with their blood sugar levels when treatment focuses on optimizing testosterone levels as opposed to increasing their insulin levels. (Clin Interv Aging 2007: 2(4):567-76; J Clin Endodrinol metab. 2006 Mar 1991 (3):843-50; J Androl. 2009 Jan-Feb:30(1):23-32) Studies have shown that men on testosterone replacement therapy for low testosterone experienced slower progression towards metabolic syndrome, diabetes, blood pressure issues and cardiovascular disease. (J Urol.2005 Sept;174(3):837-34)

Bottom line, make sure you get that blood test to check your free testosterone levels! And talk to your health care professionals about how your symptoms may stem from a gradual decline in testosterone usage.

Please note:
Information on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.


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Anna Manayan

Anna Manayan