Testosterone and estrogen are two hormones found in the human body, and they are in constant balance with each other to maintain normal biological functioning. When boys enter puberty, they experience a significant increase in the "male" hormone testosterone, which deepens their voice, adds facial hair, and boosts muscle growth. Then as men age, they naturally start to lose testosterone and gain estrogen. This isn't a problem unless testosterone severely drops or estrogen significantly spikes.
Yet, low testosterone is relatively common for aging men, as about 40% of men over the age of 45 struggle with low T levels. In addition to age, research has identified a connection between low testosterone and high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. Stress, alcoholism, and certain medications can also accelerate the process of losing testosterone.
When a man's testosterone levels drop below normal, he becomes at risk for even more health problems. These include sexual dysfunction, low blood count, memory loss, increased body fat, osteoporosis, and fatigue. This places some urgency on receiving treatment as soon as possible.
A doctor might choose natural or medical ways to improve low testosterone levels. Exercise and weightlifting, a balanced diet around the three macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates), sunshine, vitamin and mineral supplements, and quality sleep are all proven to increase testosterone levels naturally.
Testosterone replacement therapy is the direct method for treating low T medically, but it's usually a secondary option for patients who have low T and several other symptoms. Before resorting to testosterone therapy, doctors generally test for and treat any underlying conditions affecting a man's T levels.
Patients can receive testosterone therapy through a skin patch, gels, mouth patch, injections, or implants. These methods deliver the testosterone directly to the bloodstream, avoiding any negative impact on the liver.
Testosterone replacement therapy is not recommended for men with prostate cancer because testosterone can cause prostate cancer to grow. Doctors also may test patients for prostate-specific antigen, which is used as an identifier for prostate cancer. Other conditions that make testosterone replacement therapy a risky treatment are sleep apnea, blood clots, and congestive heart failure.
Lower testosterone is natural with age, but if you notice any symptoms you think might be related to low T, your doctor can order a blood test to analyze your official levels.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. If you have any concerns, please speak with your doctor.
Sinclair Broadcast Group is committed to the health and well-being of our viewers, which is why we initiated Sinclair Cares. Every month we'll bring you information about the "Cause of the Month," including topical information, education, awareness, and prevention. June is Men's Health Education and Awareness Month.