Testosterone Hormone Replacement for Men
For men, testosterone is the powerful hormone that promotes muscle mass and energy, regulates mood and memory, and impacts sex drive and erections. A slow decrease in testosterone levels can be a natural part of aging, however a large drop in testosterone levels can cause a great impact on men’s health and vitality. Healthy blood levels of testosterone for the average man range from 270-1100 ng/dl and most men will see a 1% drop in testosterone levels yearly after age 30. In addition to the testosterone decline that we see with aging, testosterone deficiency can be a sign of an underlying problem with hormone regulation, damage to the testicles or other chronic illness. Often, we will also see a decrease in testosterone levels in men with high stress and poor nutrition. Symptoms of low testosterone include:
- Reduced sexual desire
- Fewer spontaneous erections or erectile dysfunction
- Depression, lack of motivation or low self-confidence
- Reduced memory and processing speed
- Increase in body fat and decline in muscle mass
- Fatigue and irritability
- Poor sleep patterns
- Chronic muscle and joint pain
Diagnosing testosterone deficiency can be done with a simple blood test that is best performed before 10 am. At NaturoMedica we also include a comprehensive hormone evaluation that includes looking at other hormone levels that may impact testosterone deficiency in men including cortisol, thyroid, estrogen, DHEA and DHT. Since these hormones work together to create a balanced endocrine system it is important to identify and correct for all the possible hormone imbalances.
Boosting testosterone levels can be done naturally by losing 10% of your body weight, drinking less alcohol, improving sleep and increasing the intensity and frequency of heavy weight lifting. There are some herbs and vitamins such as Maca, Ashwaganda, Tribulus, zinc and vitamin D that can also improve testosterone levels when used consistently and at the correct doses for at least 12 weeks. When simple diet, lifestyle and natural therapies are not enough, testosterone hormone replacement therapy may be an option to consider. It is important to evaluate the benefits and risks of testosterone therapy to decide if it is the right therapy for you.
Benefits of Testosterone Replacement Therapy
1. Improved cardiovascular health
There has been some controversy surrounding testosterone replacement and heart health. However, a recent large-scale study that monitored 83,000 veterans on testosterone replacement therapy for 6 years put much of this controversy to rest. This study found that men who used testosterone replacement had a lower risk of heart attack, stroke and death. One of the critical points of this study is that it is important to find the RIGHT dose for men. The benefit of testosterone therapy was only for those men who restored the testosterone level to the correct physiologic levels. At NaturoMedica, we regularly monitor testosterone blood levels and use a variety of different forms of hormone replacement to ensure that men achieve optimal hormone levels.
2. Supports a lean and strong body
Testosterone can increase muscle mass and help reduce body fat. However, it is unlikely men will realize these benefits unless testosterone therapy is combined with strength training and dietary changes. Testosterone is not a magic bullet but it can help men see a bigger payoff from all the hard work in the gym. Don’t confuse the use of testosterone hormone replacement therapy with the “doping” of anabolic steroids used by some bodybuilders. Testosterone replacement is used in physiologic levels to replace levels that would normally be found in the blood. Meanwhile, the forms that athletes use illegally for body building are in much higher doses and often combined with other substances to boost the muscle building effect.
3. Better brain health
Research shows that men with higher total testosterone levels have a reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, improved verbal and spatial memory, and faster math processing speeds. Men taking testosterone show improved mood and reduced fatigue and irritability. Testosterone certainly plays a major role in men’s brain health which can be important for success in their relationships as well as their careers.
4. Improved sexual drive and function
Low testosterone levels can contribute to a low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, depression and a decreased sense of health and well-being. Surprisingly, low testosterone by itself is rarely to blame for the decrease in sexual function. Other health problems such as high stress, sleep deprivation, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), obesity, impaired blood sugar control and poor blood flow can contribute to changes in sex drive and erectile dysfunction. However, in men with these other contributing factors, low testosterone levels can make the problem worse. Testosterone therapy can improve sex drive and sexual satisfaction for many men. In addition, many men who use testosterone replacement find an additional benefit with weight loss and improved blood sugars, conditions that may also lead to erectile dysfunction. When treating erectile dysfunction, it is important to also address the cardiovascular issues and blood sugar problems along with the hormone imbalances to get the best results.
Prescription testosterone replacement is available in different forms including gels, patches, compounded creams and intramuscular injections. These forms deliver testosterone directly into the blood stream and are the best way to reach optimal levels with the least amount of side effects. Many times, other hormones such as HCG or Anastrazole may be prescribed along with testosterone therapy. HCG is a hormone injection used to restore testosterone production in the testicles and prevent testicular shrinking. It is sometimes used for treating infertility in men when testosterone therapy is contraindicated. Anastrazole (Arimidex®) is a medication that blocks the aromatase enzyme, an enzyme that turns testosterone into estrogen. Some men may convert testosterone into excessive estrogen. Anastrazole effectively lowers the level of circulating estrogen and eliminates estrogen’s unwanted feminizing effects.
When considering testosterone hormone replacement, it is important to work with your NaturoMedica physician to assess possible risks to hormone replacement. For example, those men with a history of prostate cancer, congestive heart failure or history of blood clots may not be a good candidate for hormone replacement. Ongoing monitoring of testosterone therapy is required to minimize side effects and optimize dosing. In addition to measuring hormone levels, ongoing monitoring of blood pressure, blood counts, liver enzymes, and PSA (prostate) are important health markers to ensure that testosterone therapy is being well tolerated.
Although a small decline in testosterone levels should be expected as men age, men do not need to accept a loss of vitality. If you are experiencing any symptoms associated with testosterone deficiency, it is time to be evaluated by a knowledgeable NaturoMedica physician and take the next steps to improve your health.