Think back to the days of early puberty. It seems like forever ago that hair was sprouting under your armpits. Your voice started deepening. Attractions to others started developing. Getting older was an exciting experience.
Now, we find ourselves looking to pump the brakes. We find our hair starting to thin. Unlike your gut area which is starting to thicken…which is nothing like your nether region because erectile dysfunction (ED) is starting to rear its ugly head a bit more often.
You get the picture. Old age wreaks havoc on all things that defines us as men.
A Lifetime of Decisions
As men start to age, their body’s ability to bounce back from aversion becomes hastened. When we are young, our arteries are still vibrant and full of life. Oxygenated blood cells are reaching all regions of the body from the brain all the way down to the reproductive organs.
Our metabolism is churning. Energy is booming. Sex drive is through the roof. All things are rolling on smooth cylinders.
So, we don’t think twice about that donut made with genetically modified “wheat” and refined sugars. We get our coffee fixes extra light and sweet. We go to fairs to try Oreos deep fried and covered with chocolate syrup.
These are our instant rewards for getting through the grind that is life. But these decisions cumulatively leads to atherosclerosis, which is the thickening of artery walls. When this happens, nitric oxide is not able to clear the way of debris to make room for oxygenated blood to pass through the veins. This causes blockages to pivotal areas of the body including the brain, reproductive system, and the heart.
As the plaque hardens, over time the thick buildup gets added onto by even more consumption of refined sugars and artificial sweeteners. This serves as a catalyst for inflammations to grow. Your immune system is unable to reach these areas, allowing for the inflammations to burrow deeper and the arteries to become thicker. This is why heart disease is the number one cause of death in America.
When these changes to the body begin to take place, one of the first noticeable side effects is a drop in testosterone levels. Both women and men create the hormone testosterone naturally. This is done to balance out the organic creation of estrogen in our bodies. What makes a man a male is that he has higher levels of testosterone than estrogen, and vice versa for women.
Testosterone has a ton of effects on the male body. This hormone’s major functions include:
- Growth of Adam’s Apple
- Dropping in Tone of Voice
- Development of Male Sex Organs
- Increase in Muscle Mass
- Production of Sperm
- Height Spurts
- Facial, Armpit, Leg, and Pubic Hair
- Maintaining Erections
- Stronger Bone Density
- Regulating Sex Drive
After men hit 40, on average they lose about 1% of testosterone a year. Ideal testosterone levels vary by age, but typically a healthy man will produce within a range of 300 ng/dL and 1050 ng/DL.
The Tale of 2 Testosterones
What makes low testosterone so hard to diagnose is that there are two different tests for testosterone. The reason for this is that we have two different types of testosterone floating in our body.
The majority of the testosterone we produce is rendered useless. Upon secretion from the testes and entering the system, a protein called sex binding hormone globulin (SHBG) leaches onto the testosterone. Therefore, your body doesn’t reap any of the aforementioned benefits of this hormone such as thicker hair and stronger sex drives.
The remaining testosterone in your system that dodges the bullet of SHBG is responsible for all the things that makes us men like our erections and sterile sperm. This testosterone is called free testosterone and only accounts for 2% of the testosterone in our bodies.
When we get tested for testosterone, a lot of physicians will give you the total testosterone levels of both free testosterone and the SHBG bound testosterone. If those numbers seem within a healthy range, that does not mean you are not low in free testosterone. This is the TOTAL amount, which means you can have a ton of SHBG testosterone and very low levels of the free testosterone you want.
To be safest, you need to get tested for free testosterone levels separately. That is the testosterone that really matters when we are fighting things like a swelling gut and embarrassing nights in the sack.
Here are some ways to determine if you have low T at home:
Smell Your Sweat
Remember during puberty how bad you used to smell? That was your glands secreting “apocrine sweat.” This is your body releasing testosterone. The more pungent your pits smell, the more testosterone you’re producing.
Check Your Testes Size
Much like if you keep doing bicep curls, your arms are bound to get bigger. The more activity your testes partake in, the bigger they will be. As long as you are ejaculating regularly, testosterone is boosting, and your testes, libido, and erections should all be growing swimmingly.
Home Test Kit
To get more conclusive results than sweat and testes, you can purchase a saliva or blood kit at a pharmacy. All you need to do is follow the instructions included and mail back the vials inside the kit to the address the kit provides. When testing at home, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- This is not a replacement for seeing a doctor. Doctors will always give you more accurate results along with counseling and solutions.
- Testosterone levels tend to fluctuate. Generally speaking, they are highest in the morning. Try 2-3 tests around the morning time for a more accurate reading.
- Saliva tests are not as accurate as blood tests. They can point you in the right direction, but they shouldn’t be your last line of defense.
8 Signs You May Have Low Testosterone
Before you go running out to buy a home test kit, there are a lot of telltale signs to look out for that would indicate you are indeed suffering from lower levels of testosterone. Take a look in the mirror and assess how you have been feeling and why you may be questioning if your testosterone levels have started to decrease.
Then read through these 8 signs that you may have low testosterone. Everyone is unique, so you may have a little bit of all eight or really severe cases of a couple. Either way, crossing them off of your checklist may warrant a phone call to your physician for a proper diagnosis.
One of the first side effects of low testosterone that will stand out to you is a lack of interest in sex. For something that used to be on your mind quite often, it’s taken a backseat to work, bills, and raising kids. Testosterone is what gives us that primal yearning to procreate and be the alpha male of the household. As those desires begin to wane, the libido tends to as well.
Poor Sleeping Habits
Our bodies create a bulk of our hormones during the nighttime hours when we are sleeping and our body is expending the least amount of energy. However, if you have lower levels of testosterone, then your chances of insomnia increase.
Published research on the correlation between low levels of testosterone and low quality sleep stated, “A cohort study of men aged 65 years and over, those with lower testosterone levels had reduced sleep efficiency, increased nocturnal awakenings, and less time in SWS (slow wave sleep).”
The reason for this is that as we lose testosterone, the other hormones in our body get out of balance as well. When there are blockages in the body, other hormones are also having a hard time getting to vital organs. In response, your body produces cortisol, the stress hormone.
As cortisol levels increase because your body is repeatedly under elevated levels of stress, it causes your body to become restless. This is why high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, has been linked to chronic insomnia.
With loss of sleep and decrease in sex drive, men begin to face their own mortality. Aging brings on depression and mood swings due to the hormonal imbalance caused by depleted levels of testosterone. Mood swings and depression are all very common during this time period in a man’s life and has thus garnered the nicknames of, “male menopause” and “irritable male syndrome.”
The main reason why men can pack on so much muscle as compared to their female counterparts is testosterone. Free testosterone is essential for the growth and definition of muscles.
957 Japanese men’s free testosterone levels and muscle mass were measured between 1997 and 2010. 95% of them that suffered from low free testosterone levels also were reported having sarcopenia, which is a loss in muscle mass.
Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
As testosterone decreases, all the things that seem to make you a male begin to feel stripped away. One of the hardest pills to swallow is ED. As we lose muscle, it converts to fat. Add on top of that, arteries are beginning to thicken due to a lifetime of dietary choices. This all makes the pathways to the penis tighter and tighter for blood to get through.
What makes ED so tricky is that this condition is not just a physical ailment; it’s a mental one too. With increased cortisol levels, your body is under excess stress. Suddenly things that were enjoyable are now stressful. This includes sex.
Think about when a sexual encounter is about to happen. You tense up before easing into it. Initially, your body sees the interaction as stressful. Therefore it begins to produce cortisol (which we already have too much of). That is the initial tension. In response, the parasympathetic half of your system kicks in and reminds your body that the last time you had sex it was fun, so ease up.
However, if you had ED the last time you had sex; your body might remember that and freeze up yet again. This is the flight instinct that is caused by excess cortisol. For further reading visit this article I have written (Erectile Dysfunction and Low Testosterone).
Since the purpose of testosterone is to balance out estrogen, if the body is lacking testosterone, there is a good chance your system is high in the “female” chromosome. When this happens, your muscles become less defined and turn to fat. This causes gynecomastia, or “man boobs.”
Not only are your estrogen levels increasing due to lack of sufficient levels of testosterone, but having elevated levels of cortisol also contributes in the production of estrogen.
Increase in Body Fat
As we mentioned, the loss of testosterone coincides with a decline in muscle mass. In turn, this changes the way you buy absorbs and stores fat cells. Typically, it ends up piling up around the gut area. You can learn how to lose weight while increasing testosterone from this post (How to increase testosterone levels while losing weight).
Lowers Sperm Count
Lastly, and in some cases most importantly, as testosterone lowers, so does the sperm count. The body is like a well-oiled machine. When everything is clicking, it runs without much thought given. With increased levels of testosterone, our sex drives are up, which means we are having more sex. It’s the law of supply and demand. The more we produce sperm, the healthier and stronger the cells will be.
6 Signs of High Testosterone
If you take good care of your body, you can put off losing testosterone as well as the symptoms that come along with the condition. Eating a diet of whole grains, eggs, and lean proteins along with an assortment of colored fruits and vegetables is the best way to ensure you get all the nutrients necessary for regular testosterone production.
Alongside a healthy diet, maintaining regular exercise and practicing mindfulness through yoga and meditation can help in lowering cortisol levels, estrogen levels, and increase testosterone levels. For more guidance on how to boost your T production visit our testosterone section.
Once you up the amount of testosterone in your body, you will start to see glimmers of the old you that you remember so fondly.
Having high testosterone means:
Higher Sex Drive
With testosterone levels at its peak, everything else should be functioning properly in your body. Confidence should be back, causing problems with ED to subside. In turn, you will actually look forward to having sex.
Entering into such a pleasurable act without a sense of dread will cause the hippocampus area of your parasympathetic system to log sex in your brain as a pleasurable act again. This in turn, will create even more testosterone upon ejaculation, causing you to crave sex much sooner than you did in recent ED-afflicted history.
There’s a reason why we grow hair everywhere when puberty sparks up. Testosterone is the leading cause for hair growth. As testosterone levels increase, the amount of hair, as well its thickness should show immense improvement.
Greater Muscle Development
You see more and more scandals of doping on the news, especially in light of Russia using growth hormone in the Olympics. Increasing testosterone increases muscle development. Studies have found that, “Testosterone induces muscle cell hypertrophy,” meaning the hormone causes the muscle to expand. That allows for men to lift heavier items, push themselves to run harder, and swim faster.
Lower Body Fat
As muscle becomes leaner, it does so at the detriment to body fat. Body fat is typically created from an enzyme called aromatase, which is a byproduct of estrogen. Therefore, as testosterone levels increase, estrogen levels decrease. In turn, body fat becomes far less intrusive around the gut area for men.
When hormones are in balance, we are more apt to be at peak functioning. Your immune system is no longer running around trying to catch up with the overabundance of cortisol. Happy neurotransmitters that promote focus and concentration such as serotonin and dopamine are produced freely. All of this means that we will have more energy, become more alert, and become overall more productive.
With everything falling into place on a chemical level, other conditions such as bouts of anxiety and depression may start to cease. We can go through life with more confidence because we are having fun again in the bedroom, have a more muscular body, and lost some of that belly weight. As a Princeton study states, “The higher the self-confidence increases the motivation to act.”
The Highs and Lows of Testosterone
Aging is an inevitable process. Our hairs will turn gray. Our bones will become more brittle. Our dependency on others will begin to increase. However, it takes a real man to not lie down and let these changes happen easily.
The more we pay attention to our bodies, the quicker we can pinpoint problems, and vastly improve our qualities of life. So many men ignore their growing issues with depleting levels of testosterone. In turn, they miss out on the intimacy of having sex with the one they love, they lack self-confidence due to loss of hair, and they miss out on much-needed rest due to elevated stress levels.
By going through the checklist of the above signs of high and low testosterone, you should have a better understanding of where you are on the spectrum. Before you make any decisions on how to proceed with the information that you have gathered, be sure to consult a physician.