Male testes produce a crucial hormone called testosterone that has a very important role in the well being of male bodies. Hypogonadism, commonly known as low testosterone or ‘low T’ is a common yet worrying complication in men. Yes, the level of testosterone naturally declines with age. According to Urology Care Foundation, men lose 20% and 30% of their testosterone level at the age of 60 and 70 respectively. But problem begins when men start to lose their testosterone level prior to that age.
Why men should worry about their testosterone level
Testosterone is actually the hormone that is responsible in transforming a boy into a male. All types of physical development including (but not limited to) male sex organs, growth of pubic & genital hair, bone density, beard growth, muscle building and voice deepening all are triggered by the release of testosterone. For a proper physical as well as psychological development testosterone is a must have hormone.
Without the optimum level of testosterone in the blood stream male’s brain will not get positive signal that triggers libido and works behind general wellbeing and happy mood. Testosterone also stimulates the sebaceous glands which in turn controls the oil content of the skin. At the same time, this hormone boosts the presence of mineral in bones and stabilizes the body’s immune system. Sperm production including the quality & quantity of sperm in order to control the reproductive system is another vital function of testosterone.
Men’s sex life is solely dependent on testosterone hormone. Low testosterone level will decrease your sex drive while causing trouble in keeping an erection. Often it is the hidden cause of premature ejaculation. Furthermore, low T will put on extra weight through the enhancement of body fat and reduction of muscle mass. This redistribution of fat will cause that dreaded large bellies and ‘man boobs’. You will feel less energy that will make you lethargic. Reports confirmed that some men feel depressed and find it difficult to concentrate when suffering from low T complication.
What causes testosterone to decline
Age-relates testosterone decline
The normal range of testosterone lies between 300 ng/dL to 1050 ng/dL. This wide range suggests that one man can have nearly 3 times more testosterone level than another and both will be treated as normal. However, the headache-causing-truth is men start to lose their testosterone level as they age.
Studies reveal that from the age of forty, testosterone level starts to decline in males by around 1% every year. The amount of free testosterone (that are not bound in the blood to SHBG) in the blood stream actually creates more frowning in male’s forehead. During the age of 25-75 healthy males tend to lose 30% of their total testosterone level and that free testosterone level declines even more significantly.
The biological process of testosterone production is a complex chain of action that is regulated by Hypothalamic Pituitary Gonadal axis. Hypothalamus secrets gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) that stimulates anterior pituitary to secret luteinizing hormone along with follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). LH then stimulates Leydig cells in the testes to produce testosterone. As the age progresses the total process becomes slow due to the poor signaling function of hypothalamic and anterior pituitary. Moreover, majority of testosterone becomes inactivated in the liver and also excreted by the kidneys.
Diseases that can cause low testosterone
Hypogonadism. Clinically the term is known as Late Onset Hypogonadism (LOH) or Andropause when the volume of SHBG increases resulting into the decline of the amount of free testosterone. This disease is treated as one of the major reasons for the decline in testosterone level.
LOH is further sub-divided into Primary Hypogonadism & Secondary Hypogonadism depending on congenital abnormalities or acquired disease.
If testicular abnormality causes lower testosterone production then it is termed as Primary Hypogonadism. This is caused by chemotherapy or infection and characterized by elevated Luteinizing Hormone.
If any disorders like tumors, genital or congenital conditions distract normal functioning of hypothalamic pituitary axis then Secondary Hypogonadism occurs in men. This complication is characterized by lower than normal level of Luteinizing Hormone.
Diabetes. Low testosterone level and type-2 diabetes frequently go hand in hand. Studies reveal that men with type-2 diabetes are twice as likely to have low testosterone as men without diabetes. When men have reduced insulin sensitivity the body can’t use insulin properly. Consequently, glucose builds up in the blood without being absorbed by the cell. This is in fact named as type-2 diabetes. According to the study published in 2013 in the journal BioMed Research International it is found that low testosterone is directly linked with insulin resistance regardless of age and body weight.
Obesity. Obesity, usually believed to be linked with heart disease is associated with low testosterone levels in male. Several medical studies proved that obese men, even in young age suffer from low testosterone level. In measuring obesity Body Mass Index is used which is actually a measure of height & weight.
Thyroid dysfunction. Low functioning of thyroid gland (Hypothyroidism) is related with low testosterone level. Malfunction of thyroid gland results in decreased production of Luteinizing hormone which primarily stimulates the testes to produce testosterone. So it is understandable that if thyroid gland doesn’t work properly this will result in low testosterone level in men.
Bad lifestyle that can lower your testosterone
- Nicotine greatly reduces the level of testosterone in men’s blood stream. So if you are a chain smoker you should quite immediately. Quitting smoking helped men to increase the physiological activity which in turn boost testosterone production.
- Consumption of highly processed foods which basically contain trans-fat and various preservatives can negatively affect men’s testosterone level. Try to avoid these process foods as much as possible.
- Poor sleeping habit results in lower level of testosterone in healthy young men. A study conducted by University of Chicago in 2011 showed that men who were subjected to only 4 hours of sleep suffered from drastically lower level of testosterone than average men.
- In this hustling & bustling world people live a stressful life. Continuous exposure to stressful condition elevates the level of catabolic hormone, Cortisol in male’s body. This hormone breaks down the growth hormone that translates into lower testosterone level.
- Men who are deprived from sexual intercourse for longer period of time will experience low level of testosterone. According to medical findings regular sexual intercourse will hold the testosterone level at normal range on men aged between 55 to75. One should keep in mind only safe sex is recommended.
Know more about how bad lifestyle can reduce your testosterone level.
Health effects of low testosterone
Dropping levels of testosterone will not merely cause a sexual problem. Rather, it is associated with some more complications including (but not limited to) weight loss, bad mood and poor concentration level. Sometimes these are unconsciously overlooked by most males. However, it is vital to know some common health effects of low testosterone
- Low sex drive: Sex drive (libido) in men is totally dependent on the volume of testosterone. Males suffering with ‘low T’ will experience a drastic drop of his willingness to have sex.
- Erectile difficulties: Yeah, it is true that testosterone alone doesn’t cause an erection but it heavily stimulates the receptors of brain that triggers the erection during sex. People with low testosterone will face less than sufficient erection or no erection at all during sex.
- Low semen volume: Semen is a milky fluid that helps in the mobility of sperm inside the vagina. Testosterone plays a vital role in the production of semen. Male with ‘low T’ will have low volume of sperm during ejaculation.
- Hair loss: During puberty genital and pubic hairs are the outcome of testosterone secretion. Beard in face and body hair are also the outcome of testosterone. ‘Low T’ will cause sparse facial or body hair and balding in male.
- Loss of muscle mass & bone density: Men suffering from ‘low T’ will experience lesser muscle mass and muscle strength because testosterone is a vital hormone to build a stronger muscle mass. Likewise low testosterone level will accelerate the thinning of bone which is medically known as Osteoporosis.
- Redistribution of body fat: Low testosterone level alters the distribution of body fat. As a consequence, more fat are stored in stomach resulting in the swollen belly. Sometimes it may cause ‘Gynecomastia’ which is known as enlarged breasts in males—more commonly ‘male boobs’.
- Weakness & depression: Many physiological processes are closely related with testosterone volume. Hence, ‘low T’ symptoms include mental instability, depression and decreased ability to concentrate.
There are some non-specific health effects including sleeping problems, lethargic feeling etc. which are believed to be associated with low testosterone level.
What can you do if your testosterone is low?
The truth is if you really know that your testosterone level is low and can identify the cause behind it you are in a position to reclaim your manhood. The first step is to make changes to boost your testosterone naturally. You might also be a candidate for testosterone replacement therapy, although it is much preferable to avoid exogenous testosterone if you can.