Combating the andropause

Testosterone is important for the health of both men and women, but if you are deficient in the male hormone, you may need to take a testosterone supplement. 

Having too much or too little can have major effects on many different parts of your health and its vitality, apart from your sex drive.

Potential benefits in men

For those men who have very low testosterone levels (<10nM) as well as symptoms relating to them, a testosterone supplement can help alleviate the symptoms. Men have reported improvements such as improved energy, physical function, sexual function, mood and feelings of well-being.

Potential risks in men

Testosterone may accelerate some diseases, including sleep apnea, increased cholesterol, heart attacks and strokes, prostate enlargement and potentially prostate cancer as well.

Women who take a testosterone supplement

Although women have much lower testosterone levels than men, this does not mean that testosterone does nothing for them. In fact, as in men, low testosterone levels may be associated with significant changes in mood, strength, sexual function and vitality.

Taking a testosterone supplement is much less common in women than in men. This partly because there is no clear definition of what levels constitute deficiency.

In addition clinical studies have been very limited. Certainly, some have shown improvements in sexual function in select women. But no beneficial effects have been seen on mood, bone density or body composition.

While women do not have to worry about prostate enlargement, testosterone supplementation in women comes with the added problem of facial hair growth, skin coarseness, acne, weight gain, deepening of the voice, and changes in mood, including increased aggression levels at high doses.

When used in appropriate doses, testosterone doesn’t cause women to look and behave like men. Though transgender women often use very high doses of testosterone for this purpose.

Ways to improve health without testosterone supplements

Of course there are many other things you can do for your health than take a testosterone supplement:

  • Be aware of your symptoms – don’t just assume it is the aging process and suffer in silence.
  • Take note – do you have a diminished libido, persistent unexplainable fatigue or a decreased sense of wellbeing? And do you want this to change?
  • Lose some excess weight and prevent weight gain – excess fat can suppress testosterone levels as well as reduce its actions.
  • Increase physical activity – this will help slow the declining testosterone levels by maintaining weight control.
  • Prevent the onset of diabetes and obesity – take up weight training 2-3 times per week by engaging a trainer or going to a class at your local gym.
  • Get quality sleep – inadequate sleep is can reduce testosterone levels and makes the symptoms of low levels worse.
  • Manage stress – try yoga, meditation, rhythmic breathing or other relaxation techniques.
  • Stop smoking – even second hand smoke will reduce your testosterone levels.
  • Work on the relationship with your partner – the simplest way to great sex is a great partnership.

Last reviewed 15/May/2017

 

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Dr Merlin Thomas

Professor Merlin Thomas is Professor of Medicine at Melbourne’s Monash University, based in the Department of Diabetes. He is both a physician and a scientist. Merlin has a broader interest in all aspects of preventive medicine and ageing. He has published over 270 articles in many of the worlds’ leading medical journals