Low testosterone levels in males over 50 are partly due to the natural aging process, but there are lifestyle choices (and their consequences) that directly impact a man’s testosterone levels, which most noticeably manifest as low sex drive, erectile dysfunction (ED), loss of muscle mass, and weight gain.
What is Testosterone and What Causes It To Decline?
Testosterone is a hormone found in both men and women. In men, it is the primary sex hormone and it’s responsible for a man’s lower voice, body hair, sex drive, and physical strength. Physically, testosterone is what makes a man a man!
In their mid-30s to early 40s, most men begin to experience a gradual drop in testosterone levels. This can lead to the mistaken notion that a decreased sex drive and an increase in erectile dysfunction (ED) is due to aging. It’s not.
These conditions can result in other medical problems including:
- Type II Diabetes
- Heart disease
- Testicular cancer
- Chronic liver or kidney disease
- Medicines and treatments (such as radiation and chemotherapy)
- Injury to the testicles
- Hormonal disorders
Before blaming low sex drive and ED on low testosterone, a consultation with a doctor is needed to rule out these serious health conditions.
Some men are genetically predisposed to low testosterone levels. While aging does play a role, the age-related decline in a healthy man is 2% or less per year. This would not account for the more dramatic symptoms such as erectile dysfunction.
Low testosterone levels do not always directly translate to symptoms that can be attributed solely to low testosterone. For example, chronic low-level fatigue can be attributed to a number of factors including adrenal fatigue; and low libido can be a result of chronic stress or relationship problems. However, if testosterone levels drop to 200 or 100 ng/dL – even in the absence of symptoms – treatment is necessary to restore healthy levels. In that case, it’s time to look into testosterone boosting supplements such as these.
Why Is There a Surge in Low-Testosterone Diagnoses?
A low testosterone diagnosis is becoming more common in middle-aged men. As the population ages and the stigma of ED slowly disappears, there has been an increase in men seeking treatment for low testosterone. In part, this is due to more openness about the situation.
Another reason for the increase in low-testosterone diagnoses could be due to advertisers who urge men to talk to their doctors about low testosterone for fatigue, depression, lack of sex drive and other symptoms. While these symptoms could be low-testosterone related, they could also be due to hypothyroidism or something totally unrelated to the hormonal system. Nevertheless, the dialogue is opened and this encourages men to talk about more intimate problems like ED with their doctors.
Effects of Low Testosterone
Low testosterone can throw off the delicate balance of hormones in the body. Outside of sexual dysfunction (ED and low sperm count) and low libido, low testosterone contributes to a loss in bone density, fatigue, depression, loss of muscle mass, lethargy, increased body fat, mental fogginess, enlarged breasts, breast tenderness, and sleep disturbances.
What Does “Low” Testosterone Really Mean?
In healthy men, testosterone levels range from a high of 800 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) to a low of 300 (ng/dL). Testosterone levels are measured by a blood test.
Treatment for Low Testosterone
A gradual decline in testosterone as you age is normal. However, if levels are below 300 ng/dL, treatment to restore healthy testosterone levels may be indicated.
Treatment protocols include injections, implantable testosterone pellets (implanted in the skin of the buttocks), and nasal gels.
Non-medical treatments can include:
- An increase in exercise, particularly resistance training (weights) and interval training
- A healthy diet with increased protein intake
- Stress reduction through meditation or exercise
- Herbal remedies including ashwagandha
It is not advised to treat low testosterone without a doctor’s supervision. The hormonal balance in the body is a delicate one that requires careful monitoring through blood tests to ensure that the system doesn’t go too far in either direction.
Risks and Benefits of Testosterone Replacement
Since other factors can play a role in what appears to be low testosterone-related problems, it’s important to address those factors first. Given that many of the contributing factors to low testosterone are lifestyle-related, simply improving the diet, exercising more, losing weight, and reducing stress can often improve the situation enough to warrant no testosterone replacement or only a short-term “boost.”
However, if a man’s symptoms are truly due to low testosterone, he will notice a significant difference in mood, energy, and sexual drive and performance within a few weeks. Sometimes the difference is not dramatic. It’s important to note, however, that the body takes time to recalibrate and restore normal functioning so the less-obvious effects of testosterone may take time to recover.
There are also risks associated with testosterone replacement. Testosterone replacement can raise a man’s red blood cell count, accelerate prostate growth, and cause enlargement to his breasts. Men undergoing cancer treatment, particularly prostate and breast cancer, should not undergo testosterone replacement. For most men, testosterone replacement therapy is safe, as long as there is careful monitoring of any changes.
In addition, you can also begin adding a testosterone supplement to your diet. We review many testosterone products on this site, but particularly give these two our full endorsement:
If you’re over 50, in good health and you are experiencing some or all of the symptoms associated with low testosterone, consult with your doctor. There is no reason to allow a hormonal imbalance to interfere with your sex life, energy, health, or enjoyment of life.