What Makes A Man?

This week I had a reader request that I discuss low testosterone (he was recently diagnosed with it).  I am happy to oblige because I think there are a lot of misconceptions about testosterone deficiency in men.

The first misconception is that low testosterone is rare.  Population studies suggest that 10-25% of men over age 50 have low levels of testosterone.  Only about 50-60% of those with low testosterone levels have symptoms though.  Many doctors feel that if a man isn’t having symptoms he shouldn’t have a testosterone blood test.

So what are the symptoms of low testosterone?  As you would expect, low sex drive and trouble getting and maintaining erections are the most common symptoms.  Other possible symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, depression and osteoporosis (see my post Make A Wish) Many men just report they don’t feel the same, they don’t feel like they did when they were younger.

Who is at risk for low testosterone?  Well obviously men are at risk, but the risk goes up as a man gets older.  A man loses about 1% of his testosterone production per year, so the older you get the lower your levels get.  Men with diabetes and high blood pressure are also more likely to have low testosterone.  It doesn’t seem to be a cause of these medical problems but related to having a chronic illness.

Men who are obese are at higher risk, although scientists aren’t really sure why.  The theory is that an enzyme in fat cells called aromatase changes male hormones into weak estrogens, decreasing testosterone levels (see my post Save Second Base for another mention of aromatase).

What should you do if you think you (or your mate) might have low testosterone?  The first thing to do is to make an appointment with your family doctor or internist.  Unfortunately there are NO over-the-counter medications or supplements that have been proven to increase testosterone levels, so if anyone tells you their product will do it, walk away.  There are excellent medications that increase blood testosterone levels, several topical preparations and an injectable form.  Unfortunately testosterone is not absorbed when taken orally so there are no pills.

There are two things you CAN do on your own to increase your testosterone levels:  lose weight and exercise.  Decreasing your body’s fat burden will decrease aromatase activity and help keep your testosterone levels up.  Any exercise helps but resistance exercise (i.e. lifting weights) is better at raising testosterone.

Anyone who is embarrassed about asking about symptoms of low testosterone should think about this:  which is worse, the symptoms, or the embarrassment of asking?   I nearly always ask men over 40 during their physical about “equipment problems in the bedroom,” but if you’re seeing your doctor and he or she doesn’t ask, you should mention it.  Just saying “I’m concerned I might have low testosterone” should get the conversation started.

There’s a lot of  propaganda and misinformation out there about erectile dysfunction and low testosterone out there. Hope this sets the record straight and helps some guys out there get their “spark” back 🙂

PS – Any ladies out there who suddenly find their mates chasing them around the bedroom, you have either my congratulations or my apologies, depending on the situation, LOL!  Maybe you should reread my post Rated “M” For Mature!

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