When I was growing up, I always eyed 30 suspiciously. I felt that by this age I should be on my chosen path, in both career and family.
Thirty seemed like a tipping point. And it seems like it is, but not necessarily in the way I imagined.
For that is the age medical science suggests testosterone levels peak. Not quite what I had in mind, but then much of life really isn’t.
So, I now find myself reading about such terms as male menopause, a phrase many have deemed to be inappropriate and should be replaced by the more acceptable terms of testosterone deficiency, hypogonadism or andropause.
And the anti-male menopause argument centers on just how different men and women experience falling hormone production.
During menopause, women experience a rapid reduction in hormone production. In men, however, hormone and testosterone levels decline more gradually, about 1 per cent from aged 30.
So, the medical world has decided that different terms are needed for both sexes’ experiences.
And while most of us are aware that testosterone, produced mainly in the testicles, plays a role in sex drive and sperm production, it also plays a role in
- Bone density
- Fat distribution
- Muscle strength and mass
- Red blood cell production
So, falling testosterone levels and some of the symptoms that accompany it are simply part of growing old; however, for some men, it can be a bit more serious than that.
Do Oz a couple of years ago suggested that in the US alone there were between two and four million men suffering from “below-normal testosterone levels”, with just 5 per cent getting the help they needed.
Men with below-normal testosterone, and you can be younger than 30 to experience this, who may need some help may experience
- Low interest in sex
- Muscle weakness
- Small or soft testicles
- Erectile dysfunction
- Weight gain, especially around the waist
- Reduced bone density
The wider role of testosterone in our health has led many men to consider testosterone therapy to be a convenient anti-aging treatment — a way to boost muscle mass, sharpen memory and focus and boost libido and energy. This may not be the best reason to give it a try, however.
Mayo Clinic provides us all with a word of warning. It says taking testosterone may increase the risk of
- sleep apnea — a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts
- Overproduction of red blood cells, increasing your chances of heart disease
- Acne or other skin reactions
- Noncancerous growth of the prostate, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
- Growth of existing prostate cancer
- Enlarged breasts
- Reduced sperm production or testicle shrinkage
Nonetheless, there are many legitimate reasons for considering taking a testosterone supplement.
WebMD notes, for example, that science is unlocking the mysteries of how low testosterone may affect our overall health.
And they are finding connections between low testosterone and such conditions as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and high blood pressure.
Testosterone therapy can help reverse the effects of genuine testosterone deficiency. It’s just that it may not be the panacea we would all like for aging. And it’s unclear that it holds any real benefit to older men who are perfectly healthy.
So, it’s definitely worth investigating if a testosterone supplement can help if you’re experiencing symptoms associated with testosterone deficiency. Best to be sure it is an unusual low level though and not just part of the natural decline that can come with aging.