Levels of testosterone naturally decrease with age, but exactly what level constitutes "low T," or hypogonadism, is controversial, Harvard Medical School said. Testosterone levels vary wildly, and can even differ depending on the time of day they're measured (levels tend to be lower in the evenings). The National Institutes of Health includes the following as possible symptoms of low testosterone:
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Growth of spermatogenic tissue in testicles, male fertility, penis or clitoris enlargement, increased libido and frequency of erection or clitoral engorgement occurs. Growth of jaw, brow, chin, and nose and remodeling of facial bone contours, in conjunction with human growth hormone occurs. Completion of bone maturation and termination of growth. This occurs indirectly via estradiol metabolites and hence more gradually in men than women. Increased muscle strength and mass, shoulders become broader and rib cage expands, deepening of voice, growth of the Adam's apple. Enlargement of sebaceous glands. This might cause acne, subcutaneous fat in face decreases. Pubic hair extends to thighs and up toward umbilicus, development of facial hair (sideburns, beard, moustache), loss of scalp hair (androgenetic alopecia), increase in chest hair, periareolar hair, perianal hair, leg hair, armpit hair.
Testosterone is everywhere playing multiple roles from intrauterine life to advanced age. Table 1, the contents of which are always undergoing change primarily because of newly observed associations, provides an overview of the bodily systemic functions and patho-physiological states in which testosterone finds itself implicated. In some of these states there is a clear physiological cause and effect relationship. In others, evidence of the physiological role is early or tenuous.
Next, while testosterone levels do decline with age, this may simply be because the older that men get, the less they take care of themselves – they stop exercising, start putting on weight, and don’t pay as much attention to their diet. A recent study suggests that age-related T decline is not inevitable, and that if you keep living a healthy lifestyle, you can maintain healthy testosterone levels. So if you’re an older guy, try to do all you can as far as lifestyle changes before you get on the prescription T. I don’t mean doing a little cardio a few times a week, using the machines at the gym, and eating “pretty” healthy. Follow the guidelines above, and see what happens first.
Get good quality sleep on a regular basis. A chronic lack of quality sleep can significantly reduce the amount of testosterone a teenager or man produces, which then reduces muscle growth and promotes fat gain. Research has shown that quantity of sleep is associated with morning testosterone levels in males. More specifically, male testosterone levels in the morning increase with a longer duration of sleep. At least seven hours of restful sleep is recommended, although for many teenagers, nine hours is ideal to feel refreshed.
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Testosterone retains nitrogen and is an essential ingredient in the development and maintenance of muscle mass (Sinha-Hikim et al 2006). With a diminution in testosterone, muscle mass diminishes as does strength. Weakness and fatigue result. A number of studies have demonstrated the ability of testosterone to restore lean body mass (muscle) in hypogonadal men, while at the same time causing a reduction in fat mass (Wang et al 2004). Treatment of hypogonadal men with testosterone results in improvement in overall physical performance as well as strength as assessed by, eg, hand grip power (Page 2005). Because of decreased muscle strength and impaired balance, older hypogonadal men are susceptible to falling and since they may already be osteopenic or osteoporotic as a consequence of hypogonadism, they are at increased risk for fracture as a result of the fall (Szulc et al 2003). Men with low levels of testosterone as in androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer, have a significant decrease in lean body mass and hemoglobin, while at the same time they experience an increase in weight, body fat and body mass index (Smith et al 2002). Treatment of frail hypogonadal men with testosterone, therefore, can result in changes in muscle gene expression, increased muscle mass, improvements in strength, power and endurance and improved physical function.
Although some men believe that taking testosterone medications may help them feel younger and more vigorous as they age, few rigorous studies have examined testosterone therapy in men who have healthy testosterone levels. And some small studies have revealed mixed results. For example, in one study healthy men who took testosterone medications increased muscle mass but didn't gain strength.