Whether we are interested in bulking up, slimming down, increasing sexual power or simply maintaining our energy into our later years, testosterone plays a key role. While most of us already know that testosterone is the hormone responsible for making men, men, what they often do not know are the various other roles it plays in our overall health.
Testosterone has been associated with men’s sex drive for decades, but it is not the only factor. Stress, lack of sleep, depression, chronic illnesses and other factors also impact sex drive. Of course, these factors can also have an impact on levels of testosterone as well.
It is often assumed that more testosterone leads to an increased sex drive while a decrease in testosterone leads to a lowered sex drive. This is not always the case. Part of the challenge of understanding how sex drive is linked to testosterone is that there is no normal. Sex drive is an individual experience, and having a low or high sex drive is a perception – sometimes defined by the individual, and sometimes defined by their partner.
What most men do notice, however, is a difference over their lifetime. It is normal for older men to have lower levels of testosterone, and also experience a lower sex drive than they did in their 20s.
Muscle Growth & Strength
Testosterone is the hormone responsible for building and maintaining muscle in the body. Studies are showing however, that increasing testosterone alone does not produce any additional muscle mass when exercise and other factors remain the same. When testosterone falls too low, the body begins to store more fat. However, normal testosterone levels actually inhibit the creation of fat cells. So while there is no way around exercising to develop muscle mass, maintaining a healthy hormone level contributes to keeping us fit and lean.
Without testosterone, men are infertile. Sperm cells are unable to develop completely when testosterone is too low.
While men are at a lower risk for osteoporosis than women, as many as 2 million American men suffer from it each day. Bone loss and low bone density that results in brittle bones, a condition called osteoporosis, is linked to low testosterone levels. It is actually the hormone estrogen that helps build bone mass. In men, there is an enzyme that turns small amounts of testosterone into estrogen throughout their lives. However, without enough testosterone, that conversion process is limited. There are additional factors that can lead to osteoporosis, but low testosterone is a key element.
It has been shown that people who store fat in their stomachs run a higher risk of health-related issues, such as heart disease and diabetes. People who store fat in their hips and thighs are at a lower risk. In a 2012 study done by Concordia University Assistant Professor, Sylvia Santosa, it was found that testosterone levels control where and how body fat is stored. Lower levels of testosterone increase fat storage in the hips and thighs by increasing the protein in the cells that trap fat in those areas of the body.
Healthy testosterone levels help decrease fat in the body. If it does accumulate, it is more likely to be in the stomach area, which increases the risk of health issues such as heart disease and diabetes.
Red Blood Cells
Low red blood cell count can lead to anemia and include symptoms such as light-headedness, headaches, weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pains, and more frequent infections. There are different kinds of anemia, which means testosterone is not the only factor. However, testosterone is one of the hormones associated with the healthy production of red blood cells, and a decrease in these hormones can decrease red blood cell production.
Testosterone plays a key role in mental health and moods for men. Low levels of testosterone are associated with depression, anger, fatigue, nervousness, and sadness. Men with low testosterone levels who were able to rebalance their hormones experienced increases in energy as well as a greater sense of well-being and friendliness.
Maintaining a healthy testosterone level impacts a wide variety of body functions beyond muscle development and sex drive. It ensures that we stay fit, lean, and maintain our energy levels throughout the day.
It is normal and natural for testosterone levels to fall as we age, especially after age 40. While what is considered normal levels varies widely, men experience a difference in their levels of energy, mood, and overall health when they are able to maintain testosterone levels in the mid- to high-end of normal as opposed to being at the low-end of the normal spectrum.
There are several ways to increase and maintain healthy levels of testosterone throughout our lives. These can be broken down into four basic categories: supplements, herbs, foods and habits. There are many risks to using supplements or undergoing what is called testosterone therapy. This website is focused, among other things, on natural ways to increase and maintain testosterone levels in healthy ways. First however, let’s take a look at the risks involved with using over-the-counter or prescribed testosterone therapies.