Low testosterone in men can be harmful

As men get older, especially after the age of 40, testosterone levels generally begin to decline as a natural part of the aging process. However, in some men, levels can drop much more than is normal and can cause health problems.
Testosterone is, in essence, what makes a man a man. In puberty, a rush of new testosterone throughout the body helps build muscle and bone, deepens the voice and increases the sex drive. Throughout life, these hormone levels help maintain a man’s male characteristics. The amount of the hormone testosterone circulating through the body tends to decrease as men age as well as after becoming a father. While symptoms of low testosterone levels such as loss of sex drive and less hair may be more noticeable and important to men, other minor symptoms can occur also.
Testosterone levels will typically decline by about one percent or two percent per year beginning around age 40. However, when levels reach 300 nanograms per deciliter, it is considered to be a low amount of testosterone. While symptoms may go unnoticed, especially since the drop in testosterone will be gradual, there are some symptoms of which to take notice.
While it may seem perfectly normal to be “grumpier” as one gets older, irritability could actually be a sign testosterone levels are decreasing. This can also cause a vicious cycle. As testosterone levels decrease and one’s mood becomes more irritable, this can also lead to depression or increased levels of stress. This obviously can strain relations at home and work and cause some men to have less enjoyment from life. There often is also a loss of sex drive or problems maintaining an erection during sex.
Another problem can be loss of concentration. Men with low levels of the hormone have been shown to have trouble focusing on the tasks at hand. This could also be caused by another symptom, lethargy. Men sometimes also have trouble sleeping.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a study performed by the Oregon Health and Science University showed that decreased levels of testosterone could increase the risk of falls. The study was also supported by the National Institutes of Health. The results showed that men with the lowest levels of testosterone were more likely to fall than were men with higher levels.
There are also more serious side effects of declining amounts of the hormone. A low level of testosterone is also many times associated with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. However, it is as yet unclear whether these other conditions are brought on by the drop in the hormone or whether the loss of testosterone is created by the medical condition. The same processes that cause diabetes or hypertension, for example, may also cause the drop in levels of testosterone. If this is the case, low levels of the hormone could be an indication of a general decline in health. Research has also shown that men with lower levels of testosterone could be at an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s Disease.
Since testosterone helps build bone, a dramatic loss in the hormone can also lead to the thinning of bones, called osteoporosis. Men with hip fractures often also have low levels of testosterone.
While decreasing levels of testosterone is typical in men as they age, some younger men also may have low levels of the hormone and at least one study suggests this may lead to premature death. Researchers at the University of California’s San Diego School of Medicine studied 800 California men beginning in the 1970s in order to report on chronic illness. They found men with low levels of testosterone were less likely to reach middle age than those with normal levels.
To overcome this loss of testosterone, some doctors are prescribing testosterone replacement therapies. This can include a daily gel, skin patches, pills or injections. These treatments are recommended only to bring levels back to normal.
As men age, levels of testosterone will decrease which may impact the quality of life in varying degrees. Knowing which symptoms to watch for can help avoid any serious side effects while treatment could return life to normal.