Testosterone and Male Ageing
Men owe much of their “maleness” to the hormone testosterone which is produced in their testes. In men’s bodies, testosterone helps to maintain bone density, muscle mass and strength, fat distribution, red blood cell production, sex drive and perm production.
As men age, their testosterone levels usually decrease as well, leading to many symptoms associated with male ageing, such as loss of sexual function and reduced muscle strength. These symptoms are similar to men who suffer from a medical condition which causes abnormal testosterone deficiency.
This has led some to propose testosterone replacement therapy as an anti ageing treatment but the safety and effectiveness of such a treatment is still under debate.
Testosterone Levels in Men Throughout LifeTestosterone levels usually peak in adolescence and early adulthood, and then start decreasing in the early 40’s. Occasionally, some men will have naturally low testosterone levels, even at a young age (usually associated with specific medical disorders), also known as classical hypogonadism.
Deficiencies in testosterone can lead to decreased sexual function, loss of bone density and muscle mass, an increase in fat mass, reduced muscle strength and even memory loss, mood swings and depression, although some men can experience these same symptoms without unusually low levels of testosterone and others can have low testosterone but don’t experience any of these symptoms.
Male Menopause?Because of these symptoms associated with a decrease in testosterone levels and because normal levels start to decrease in the early 40’s, there has been speculation about a “male menopause” (also known as the andropause or viropause) - however, the decline in testosterone in most men is modest and occurs very slowly and gradually over many years, therefore it is doubtful if there is a specific “time of change” for men caused by decreasing testosterone, similar to the menopause in women.
In fact, the decrease is so gradual and minimal that most men remain within the “normal” range of testosterone levels throughout their lives. Many sexual dysfunction problems that occur in men as they get older are often mistakenly blamed on a testosterone deficiency when they are more probably caused by other health problems associated with advancing age; for example, erectile problems are usually caused by problems with circulation (e.g. high blood pressure).
Testosterone SupplementationSince ageing does not radically reduce testosterone by significant amounts, there is little argument for using testosterone supplementation to counteract the effects of ageing, if you are otherwise healthy - unless you already have an underlying deficiency.
While there may be some benefits associated with testosterone supplements, there is also concern among doctors and researchers as testosterone supplementation can increase the risk of prostate cancer, encourage the growth of any existing cancer and also thicken the blood, leading to an increased risk of stroke.
Therefore, it is best to avoid testosterone supplementation unless it has been clinically approved as a medical treatment for you, because you are severely deficient in testosterone and your body produces little or no testosterone on its own. Certainly do not consider testosterone supplementation purely as an anti ageing treatment!