Age-related testosterone decline could take years before you notice changes in your energy and performance, but certain health conditions can speed up the decline.
Low testosterone is a common health problem in men. Roughly 70% of men, 50 or older, have below-average testosterone levels due to the natural decline of testosterone as men age.
Because of its complex nature, specialists set a broad range in the blood concentration levels of testosterone to classify normal testosterone levels. The accepted range of normal testosterone levels in men is around 250-1000 ng/dL. This could mean that men could have half of the testosterone levels of another man with normal testosterone levels, and that would still be considered normal.
Low testosterone is caused by a reduction in testosterone production, which could be affected by certain illnesses, genetic disorders, and injury or trauma. The most common causes of low testosterone are due to acquired circumstances such as aging, obesity, medication, and stress.
The most common cause of testosterone decline in men is aging. Testosterone declines at a rate of about 2% every year after you reach your peak testosterone levels. The most common symptoms of low testosterone, such as poor libido and physical weakness, can develop at any age, and the risk of developing these symptoms increase as you get older.
The body naturally dials back on its production of testosterone shortly after reaching adulthood since the demand for androgens to support the growth and development of the body is reduced upon reaching a certain age. The resulting decline, however, affects not just your growth and development, but also your muscle performance, libido, and mood.
Aging can decrease your testosterone levels drastically, with men over 50 having 50% lower testosterone levels compared to their average testosterone levels in their 20s. Even more alarming, statistics show that testosterone is decreasing at a much faster rate in 2020 compared to the average testosterone decline in the 80s.
Studies show that men in their 40s have 20% lower testosterone levels in 2020 compared to men of the same age in the 1980s. Furthermore, the decreasing trend appears to be linked to lifestyle changes and physical inactivity. This suggests that the trend will continue towards an even sharper decline in testosterone levels in the years to come.
Obesity is a major factor that affects low testosterone as it curates a cycle that continues to lower testosterone levels. Being overweight or obese can decrease total testosterone levels due to insulin resistance-associated reductions in sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). SHBG is the protein that binds to testosterone and carries it through the bloodstream. Reduced SHBG directly reduces overall testosterone levels.
In addition to the reduction of SHBG, obesity also increases aromatase activity, which converts testosterone into estrogen. Increased estrogen further encourages the development of fat deposits, and the accelerated conversion of testosterone into estrogen further lowers testosterone levels. Estrogen also has anti-androgen properties that greatly diminish the impact of testosterone on the body.
Certain types of medication affect your testosterone levels. Patients taking strong opiate-based painkillers are likely to have lower testosterone levels. Opiates suppress gonadal hormone production, leading to a systematic decrease in testosterone levels. Long-term opiate use or abuse can lead to hypogonadism, or severe low testosterone (>250 ng/dL total testosterone).
Antidepressants and chemotherapy drugs have also been shown to have suppressive effects on testosterone. Patients who are taking antidepressants and those who undergo chemotherapy are likely to have lower testosterone levels over time.
Generally, your doctor would advise you if the drug they prescribe could have an adverse effect on your health. Always ask your doctor about the side effects of the drug you’d be taking, and if these drugs could affect your testosterone levels, you can ask if there are alternatives that you can take so you can maintain your testosterone levels.
Today’s fast-paced lifestyle can increase your risk of being stressed. Stress forces your body to shift into a fight-or-flight mode, where its resources are shifted to support short-term bursts of force in your muscles. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is released when the body is under stress. Cortisol has a direct impact on testosterone production as the body reverts from an anabolic (muscle-building) state to a catabolic (muscle breakdown) state.
Chronic stress can severely impact not just your testosterone levels, but also your muscle mass and strength. Increased cortisol levels can also impact your cardiovascular system as it increases the strain on the heart to pump blood.
Stress can induce low testosterone levels, and if that happens, it could have a serious effect not just on your body, but also on your mental health. Chronic stress could lead to anxiety and depression, and these conditions further accelerate testosterone decline.
Managing stress is the key to preserving your testosterone levels. Getting ample rest, sleep, and relaxation could go a long way in preventing stress from progressing into something much worse.
Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is a metabolic disease that is characterized by abnormally high glucose levels in your blood, which leads to a myriad of complications. Diabetes can cause nerve damage, weight gain, cardiovascular disorders, stroke, kidney disease, reduced wound healing, blindness, and many more.
Men with diabetes are more likely to have lower testosterone levels, while men with low testosterone levels are likely to develop diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes refers to the inability of the body to use up glucose properly, leading to a buildup of glucose in the blood. Type 2 diabetes is often caused by diet and lifestyle choices, which are often related to the increased resistance to insulin, the hormone that converts glucose into usable energy by the cells in the body.
Diabetes is involved in the deterioration of the pituitary gland, which produces the Luteinizing hormone. The Luteinizing hormone is the hormone that stimulates testosterone production in the Leydig cells.
Consequently, testosterone plays a key role in the metabolism of glucose in the body as it allows cells to use up and store energy from glucose more effectively. Testosterone improves the effectiveness of insulin in the body, allowing the body to remove glucose from the body more efficiently.
Men with low testosterone have shown an increase in insulin resistance, which leads to type 2 diabetes, while men with above-average testosterone levels have shown great insulin response, with increased energy and stamina.