Testosterone is popularly known as the male hormone. This hormone turns a boy into a man; causes hair to sprout on chest and face and deepens the voice among a host of other physical and mental changes. Although testosterone is found in males and females, it is produced in much higher quantities in males and it plays a key role in developing male reproductive organs and gender-specific traits.
Most men hit the peak of their testosterone production around the age of 20. But after the age of 30, testosterone levels in men slowly start to decline. While a normal decrease will be around 1 per cent per year, some men’s testosterone production can decrease abnormally fast and lead problems with muscle and bone mass, sex drive, fat distribution, and even red blood cell production. Here are some of the common symptoms of low testosterone levels:
Low sex drive
Most men who go to doctors requesting for a testosterone test do so because of experiencing loss of interest in sex. While some men can maintain a healthy sex drive even at relatively low testosterone levels, virtually all men will experience decrease in libido if their testosterone levels are lowered far enough. A low libido can reduce a man’s self-esteem, strain his romantic relationships, and even plunge him into depression. Testosterone therapy can help men regain their libido. Other ways to naturally boost sex drive include exercising regularly, avoiding alcohol and drugs, managing stress, and eating libido-boosting foods.
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By itself, low testosterone level rarely causes erectile dysfunction. In addition to testosterone, the brain cells need to stimulate the production of nitric oxide- which triggers a chain of reactions that end up in an erection. This means that erections don’t entirely depend on testosterone. If you have recently been failing to rise to the occasion, you could have low testosterone levels. Studies show that as many as one in three men complaining of ED to their doctor have low testosterone. But if you don’t have other symptoms mentioned here, the most common culprit of erectile dysfunction is atherosclerosis- the hardening on arteries. Atherosclerosis can damage the tiny blood vessels supplying the penis, leading to a weak erection.
Decrease in muscle mass
Thanks to testosterone, men normally have larger muscles than women. When testosterone levels dip, it makes sense that muscle mass is also affected. Research has shown that anabolic steroids- which drastically increase testosterone levels- can even induce muscle growth and fat loss without any exercise whatsoever. No wonder these steroids are so popular with bodybuilders! With a significant drop in testosterone levels, you might notice more difficulty in building and maintaining muscle mass. However, don’t be tempted to take steroids in an effort to boost your testosterone levels- they come with adverse side effects.
Men with low testosterone often complain of chronic fatigue, which can at times lead to sleep disturbances and insomnia. This kind of tiredness doesn’t improve even with rest or when your schedule involves lots of sleep time. Lack of proper sleep and low testosterone can sometimes be a chicken and egg situation- each can lead to the other. A study found that men with poor sleep habits tend to have lower testosterone levels. It’s recommended that you get eight hours of sleep nightly. Set up a consistent sleep pattern which involves a relaxing period before bed. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and breathing exercises or meditation can also improve your sleep and testosterone production.
Feeling depressed, having trouble concentrating, or feeling irritable? You might need a testosterone level test. Studies have found that men suffering from depression had lower testosterone levels than those who weren’t depressed. While antidepressants might help you manage depression, they might also negatively interfere with a man’s sex drive and sexual performance.
Loss of bone mass
Testosterone plays a role in producing and strengthening bone. As men age and their testosterone levels decrease, they also experience loss of bone density which increases the risk of fractures. A study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that one year of testosterone treatment significantly increased bone density and strength in men aged 65 and older.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy
If your doctor determines your testosterone levels to be very low, they might recommend testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) to improve your symptoms. However, TRT isn’t without its risks. It can increase the risk of blood clots, which can in turn raise your risk of stroke. Some evidence has also linked TRT to increased risk for prostate cancer.
Additionally, supplementing testosterone can inhibit the normal ability of the testes to produce the hormone – which means you might have to be on TRT for life once you start. Testosterone therapy is also not recommended for men who want to sire children in future as it can impair fertility. Therefore, the risks of TRT might outweigh the benefits in most cases.
If you are concerned about a decrease in testosterone levels, try high intensity interval training (HIIT)- which has been shown to naturally boost testosterone levels. Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight, with plenty of lean muscle mass, will also help balance your hormones.