Whether it’s our clothes, our bodies, or our attitudes, we’re always trying to find the best way to present the most ideal version of ourselves.
While our clothing plays a part, for men, a lot of what we value about ourselves -- hair, body, virility -- comes from our testosterone levels.
But as we age, our testosterone levels start to drop: after we hit 30 or 40, our testosterone levels drop 1% every year on average.
Some men’s T levels drop even more dramatically, putting them in a condition known as low testosterone.
It’s difficult to know for sure whether or not you’re experiencing low testosterone. But look for the following signs to figure out if you might want to consider undergoing hormone replacement therapy.
Lower Sex Drive
Testosterone levels affect both our primary and secondary sex characteristics, but at the end of the day it’s still primarily a sex hormone.
In puberty, our testosterone levels spike, and along with that comes an accompanying rise in sex drive that continues into our twenties.
However, as we get into later adulthood and middle age, we start to experience diminished sex drive and arousal. We may not want to have sex as often, or as many times in the week.
Sometimes, you might have difficulty experiencing arousal or maintaining an erection, or sexual potency is generally diminished.
While there are a number of psychological factors that can play into this -- our hectic schedules, our relationships, even our changing life priorities -- lower sex drive can also come from low testosterone.
Studies have shown that hypogonadal men (men with low T) often experience a marked decrease of interest in sexual activity, a problem for men with otherwise healthy libidos.
The link between testosterone and sex is inextricable for men - testosterone is mainly produced in the testicles, and is responsible for stimulating sperm production. If your testosterone levels lower, not only can sperm production lower, but sex drive will diminish as well.
Now again, it must be stressed that having less interest in sex now than when you were young does not necessarily mean you have low testosterone, especially if it comes and goes. But if you experience a prolonged loss in libido over a longer period of time, there might be a reason for it.
If you think this might be an issue, hormone replacement therapy might end up bolstering your sex drive and increase overall sexual performance. Many men with low T have experienced gains in these sexual health factors after taking testosterone supplements.
Weight Gain and Loss of Muscle Mass
Testosterone also plays a significant role in body composition -- the size and shape of our bodies, as well as our ratio of muscle to fat. As we age, and our testosterone levels lower, we begin to experience distinct losses in muscle mass and a corresponding rise in fat mass.
Are you not getting the same gains from lifting, running, or healthy eating as you used to? Do you find your muscle mass diminishing, only to be replaced with unsightly fat deposits? Are you generally feeling a bit flabbier and out of shape?
According to research, testosterone acts as a metabolic hormone in men, as it promotes muscle protein synthesis. As a result, lower testosterone leads to lower metabolism, meaning that more of the food we eat gets stored as fat instead of turned into muscle.
When our testosterone levels are high, our metabolism allows us to burn more calories faster and maintain our muscles. But if you find your workouts aren’t leading to the same results they used to, you might be experiencing low testosterone.
Like most things about our body composition, our testosterone levels help determine what we look like. Men with higher testosterone levels generally enjoy lower fat mass and healthier BMIs, while that BMI tends to rise as our T levels diminish.
While there are other factors at play of course -- somatopause is just as responsible for changes in body composition and weight gain as andropause -- low T certainly plays a factor.
There’s nothing wrong about your body changing as you get older, and it’s important to have a healthy relationship with your body image. However, within reason, hormone replacement therapy can help you maintain the kind of body composition you currently enjoy and stave off the diminishing effects of low T.
Osteoporosis and Lower Bone Density
This one is a little harder to spot in your everyday life, but if you find your bones feeling a little creakier, low testosterone might be to blame. Testosterone, along with three other androgens (male sex hormones), plays a vital role in maintaining bone density, especially reformation and reabsorption.
As our bodies get older, older bone is typically broken down in order to put more calcium ions into the bloodstream; as a result, the bones themselves become weaker and can lead to easier breaks and fractures.
There has been substantial research to investigate the link between testosterone levels and bone density, especially its links to osteoporosis. A progressive metabolic bone disease, osteoporosis is typically caused by age-related testosterone deficiency.
While rates of osteoporosis are lower in men (20%) as opposed to women (50%), men often have higher rates of disability and death relating to osteoporotic fractures.
Granted, these are the kinds of concerns that don’t get really serious until you start getting into your fifties and beyond. Still, younger men experiencing early-onset low T can start to experience that kind of lower bone density at an earlier age, and it’s best to find ways to offset those deficiencies as early as possible.
All is not lost, though; studies show that hormone replacement therapy can, in fact, positively impact rates of calcium absorption in hypogonadal men.
This means that, with the right treatments, you can stave off the kind of lower bone mass density that typically happens when our bodies’ T levels naturally lower.
We all have trouble sleeping at some point; it doesn’t really seem like that big a deal for many of us. But if your restless nights are becoming more and more frequent, it might be time to look into whether your condition is due to lower testosterone.
This one might seem relatively minor, and one that can be explained away by a number of other factors, especially psychological ones. Our testosterone levels naturally fluctuate throughout the day; they’re highest at night and lowest during our waking hours.
In fact, it’s during REM sleep that we experience our highest spikes of testosterone, as our body replenishes its production of the hormone.
However, when we experience sleep disorders, we lower the amount of REM sleep we experience, which then leads to low testosterone levels.
In many ways, this phenomenon might seem like a chicken or the egg scenario: does low T lead to sleep problems, or do sleep problems lead to low T? The answer is somewhere in the middle: studies indicate that men with low T often report night sweats and lack of quality sleep.
While the connection between low T and insomnia isn’t clear, the correlation is certainly there.
Conversely, women experiencing low estrogen levels commonly experience restlessness, night sweats, and hot flashes; it’s possible that similar changes in testosterone levels can do the same for men.
Regardless of where the phenomenon starts, it has been shown that testosterone treatments and/or hormone replacement therapy has led to better sleep overall for patients.
Lower Energy and Mood
Sometimes, the most dramatic and most deeply-affecting symptoms of low testosterone are mental, rather than physical. Have you been experiencing lethargy or chronic fatigue as you get older? Suffering from depression or anxiety, or a general lowering of your self-regard?
Again, outside factors can absolutely play a factor in this, but low testosterone is also deeply correlated to changes in mood and energy. According to studies, men with low T are more likely to get diagnosed with clinical depression than those with normal T levels.
Researchers are still working hard to determine the relationship between testosterone, mood, and well-being, but there appears to be at least a correlative connection between them. At the very least, we know that androgens like testosterone can contribute heavily to normal brain function; in their absence, cognitive function can diminish.
In conjunction with other solutions like therapy and cultivating lower levels of stress in your life, hormone replacement therapy can have the effect of improving your mood, cognition and energy levels.
Hormone Replacement Therapy Might Be the Solution
If one or more of these symptoms apply to you, it’s entirely possible you have low testosterone. Luckily, there are ways to address your body’s lower testosterone production and bring T levels back to normal: hormone replacement therapy.
HRT involves the medically-supervised application of hormone supplements to shore up your body’s testosterone levels, usually through targeted injections that provide testosterone receptors with the hormones your body isn’t producing.
There are plenty of places that provide safe, effective testosterone replacement therapy under expert medical supervision. If that’s something you think you might be interested in, check them out.