Testosterone is considered the “male hormone.” In men, testosterone is produced by the testicles and it is responsible for a man’s secondary sex characteristics including body hair, deeper voice. It is also a key component of muscle mass, energy levels, and libido.
Healthy Testosterone Levels in Men
Testosterone levels among healthy 30-70 year old men range from a low of 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) to a high of 800 ng/dL. testosterone levels are measured by a blood test. It is far more common for men to experience low testosterone than high testosterone; the exception being men who are already on testosterone replacement therapy, which is the leading cause of excessive testosterone.
The healthiest men tend to have testosterone levels between 400-600 ng/dL. This number declines as a man ages; however, a normal 1-2% per year age-related decline in testosterone levels should still mean that even after 20 years, a healthy man whose testosterone level was 600 ng/dL at age 35 will be in the low 400s to high 300s (still within the normal range) when he is 55.
Therefore, disease, lifestyle, and other factors such as injury to the testicles are the primary reasons men experience testosterone levels outside the normal range.
Generally, high testosterone comes with fewer adverse side effects than low testosterone. High testosterone is rare, and if it occurs it is likely caused by testosterone replacement therapy. Therefore, in most cases, high testosterone can be mitigated by reducing the amount of testosterone replacement. This adjustment should be done on the advice of a doctor since the hormonal balance must be maintained in order to experience optimal organ functioning.
The benefits of high testosterone are relatively modest. Essentially, they make a man feel younger. They include:
- Greater sex drive
- More energy
- Sharper thinking
- More muscle mass
The disadvantages of high testosterone are somewhat steeped in myth. Some people believe that high testosterone leads to aggressive and risky behavior. However, no studies have proven this. This myth likely arises from stories of men who use anabolic steroids (which are synthetic testosterone); these men are more likely to exhibit this type of behavior. However, when it comes to naturally produced testosterone levels (with the absence of testosterone replacement or anabolic steroid use), there is no correlation between aggression and high testosterone.
Side effects of high testosterone normally include:
- Reduced fertility
- Hair loss
- A decrease in testicle size
- Acne and oily skin (primarily on the shoulders and back)
- Enlarged prostate
The most common testosterone imbalance is on the low side of normal. “Normal” is somewhat age-related. A man’s testosterone peaks in his late teens or early 20s, and begins to gradually decline at 1-2% per year throughout the rest of his life.
This natural decline in testosterone is barely noticeable in some men, while others begin seeing significant changes, including erectile dysfunction and low libido, in their 40s or even earlier. The most common age at which men notice dramatic changes is around age 60. This normal decrease in testosterone is called hypogonadism, or, sometimes, andropause (“male menopause”).
Low testosterone levels may result in:
- Less physical energy/feelings of lethargy
- Loss of strength, stamina, and muscle mass
- A decline in sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Weight gain
- Mental fogginess
- Some men also experience aches in their joints and bones
While these symptoms can be attributed to normal aging, they could also signal the presence of diseases such as hypothyroidism, obesity, diabetes, hypertension or cancer. They could also be the result of excessive alcohol consumption and depression. Injury to the testicles can also result in low testosterone.
Since some men avoid seeing the doctor except when it comes to sexual dysfunction, this is the first step in diagnosing what could be something far more serious than low testosterone.
What is “Normal” As You Age?
First, don’t assume that just because you are aging, you will have to go on testosterone replacement to stay sexually, physically, and mentally active.
Keeping in mind that your testosterone levels naturally decline over the years, the key is to think in terms of the overall picture and to make lifestyle changes that support healthy hormonal levels and balance. Maintaining a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise, and minimizing stress go a long way in ensuring hormonal balance.
To boost your testosterone naturally, start with increasing your levels of high-intensity exercise (under a doctor’s supervision if you are sedentary), and boost your protein and vegetable intake. If that doesn’t do the trick, consult with your doctor to discuss the possibility of testosterone replacement therapy. You can also try adding one of these to your diet.
Don’t assume that low testosterone is inevitable as you age. A gradual decrease is normal, but if you stay active and take care of your body, the effects shouldn’t be significant and your testosterone levels should remain within normal ranges. That means that your libido, sexual performance, energy, mental sharpness, and body tone should not decline significantly; and if they do, pay close attention to what your body is telling you. Have a blood test done to determine your current testosterone levels, and then take measures to boost or maintain that level in the coming years.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of low testosterone, or if you feel that something is “off” in your body, it’s best to see a doctor to rule out any underlying problems before resorting to testosterone replacement. You can also try one of our recommended brands of testosterone boosting supplements, found below: