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Male menopause

Effects of low testosterone and ways to lift your levels.

Article Author: Johnny Woodhouse

Article Date:

illustration of boys with varying levels of blue coloring making up their bodies

Testosterone is a key hormone produced primarily in a man’s testicles. It helps regulate heart function, fuels sex drive and sperm production, and plays a role in increasing bone and muscle mass. But like everything else, testosterone levels don’t last forever. The older a man gets, the more likely he is to experience below-normal amounts.

According to the American Urological Association, about 2 out of 10 men older than 60 have low testosterone. That increases to 3 in 10 men in their 70s and more than half of men in their 80s.

Decreasing amounts of testosterone are a natural part of male aging.

Lower levels

Symptoms that may accompany low-T include:

  • Diminished sex drive
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low semen volume
  • Smaller testicle size
  • Below-normal blood counts

Low levels of testosterone can also speed up bone and hair loss and increase body fat. Men with low-T may experience changes in mood and are more likely to face depression, irritability or lack of focus.

Nicholas Peterkin, MD, a family physician with Baptist Primary Care, said low-T is more common in men over the age of 80 or men who have diabetes or are overweight.

“A blood test can determine your level of circulating testosterone. Typically, a man would have to see persistently low numbers to be concerned,” he added.

The Endocrine Society recommends men get their blood tested in the morning when levels tend to be at their highest.

Causes and concerns

Low-T can be attributed to medication side effects, thyroid problems, depression and excessive alcohol use. Even sleep apnea can affect testosterone levels.

Men may develop low-T following trauma to the testicles or removal due to cancer. Men who have had chemotherapy or radiation or are taking medicines that affect the pituitary gland, such as steroids, are also prone to low-T.

“Once a man finds out the cause of his low levels, he can take steps to improve them naturally through lifestyle choices,” Dr. Peterkin said.

Lifestyle lifts

There are several ways to get your mojo back:

  • Exercise: Getting at least 200 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week (an average of 30 minutes a day) leads to improved testosterone levels and sexual performance.
  • Lose weight: Having less abdominal fat correlates with improved desire.
  • Eat right: Follow a low-fat, high-protein, moderate-carbohydrate diet.
  • Curb alcohol abuse: Heavy drinking can lead to shrunken testes.
  • Sleep more: Testosterone levels peak when you snooze.
  • Seek therapy: Major life stressors can impact the libido.

Men with age-related low-T may consider testosterone replacement therapy, including creams and injections, but there are infertility risks and varying opinions regarding the effectiveness of man-made hormone treatment.

“There has not been sufficient evidence to support using testosterone replacement therapy, so my advice is for men to talk with their provider before considering it,” Dr. Peterkin said.

If you're experiencing symptoms that might be the result of low testosterone levels, consult a primary care physician. To find the right one for you, call 904.202.4968 (202.4YOU) or click here to fill out an appointment request form.

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