What Are the Signs of Low Testosterone in Men?
Known as the primary male hormone, testosterone plays a number of important roles in the body. In addition to affecting your sex drive, it also helps regulate fat distribution, body mass, muscle strength, and the production of both sperm and red blood cells. During puberty, testosterone is also responsible for deepening the voice and increasing the growth of facial and body hair.
Testosterone levels peak in early adulthood, but they start to naturally decline once you hit forty at a rate of about 2% per year. Although it is normal for testosterone levels to slowly drop with age, some men suffer from abnormally low testosterone levels or hypogonadism. Keep reading to learn more about what causes this condition and how it typically manifests.
What Causes Low Testosterone Levels?
As it has already been mentioned, it is completely natural for testosterone levels to decline with age. For most men, the process starts during their forties. By the time you reach the age of 60, there is a 1 in 5 chance that you will have low testosterone and, by the time you reach your 70s and 80s, the risk increases to 3 in 10. While age is the primary factor that affects decreasing testosterone levels, it can also be related to high levels of body fat or exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and other toxins. It could also be secondary to a medical condition such as testicular cancer, chronic liver or kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and various hormonal disorders or infections.
What Are the Signs of Low-T in Men?
When testosterone levels begin to decline, it can trigger a number of different signs and symptoms. In order to clinically qualify for having low testosterone or low-T, your blood levels need to be below 300 ng/dl, and you must have several clinical symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of low testosterone in men include the following:
- Mood changes
- Loss of muscle mass
- Increased body fat
- Erectile dysfunction
- Low libido
- Sleep disturbances
- Loss of body hair
Symptoms of low-T may vary in severity depending on how low your testosterone levels drop. A slight drop in testosterone levels may result in sexual symptoms such as reduced sex drive, difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection, and difficulty reaching orgasm. These are the symptoms that are most likely to inspire a man to see his doctor.
As your testosterone levels continue to decline you may notice physical symptoms such as a loss of body or facial hair, breast enlargement, reduced testicle size, increased body mass, and reduced muscle mass. You may also experience mood swings, hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and changes in memory or cognition. Eventually, low-T can even contribute to anemia, osteoporosis, and infertility.
What Can You Do About It?
Unfortunately, resolving low testosterone isn’t always as simple as just taking hormone supplements to replenish testosterone levels. Though there is some clinical evidence that shows testosterone therapy may help improve LDL cholesterol levels as well as blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and body mass index in men with low-T, there is also evidence to suggest that it may be correlated with a higher prevalence of cardiovascular disease in older men. In one study published in 2013, testosterone therapy was also associated with a greater risk for mortality in general as well as an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Testosterone patches, creams, and gels come with the risk for rash, itching, or irritation at the application site. Due to the risk of these and other side effects, testosterone replacement therapy is generally not recommended for men who have low testosterone levels but no symptoms. Experts also believe that testosterone therapy may worsen certain health conditions including prostate cancer, benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), sleep apnea, and congestive heart failure.
Though testosterone therapy may not be the best form of treatment if you have low-T, that doesn’t mean you don’t have any options available to you. In many cases, natural remedies are the best option. Some natural methods for increasing testosterone production include achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising regularly, following a healthy diet, and getting plenty of vitamin D and zinc in your daily diet.