Testosterone is a sex hormone that your body makes. Normally, men produce more of it than women do. Some men may have low amounts of testosterone. This is known as “low T.” Your hormone level decreases as you get older. Certain medicines and health conditions may affect it, as well. Examples of this include:
- Cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy.
- Testicular cancer.
- Injury to your testicle(s).
- Hypothyroidism (low thyroid levels).
- Problem with your nervous system.
Path to improved health
Low T can affect your physical and mental behavior. Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms, such as:
- low sex drive
- low sperm count
- erectile dysfunction
- changes in mood
- muscle or bone loss
- decreased strength
- weight gain
- hair loss
- trouble sleeping
- trouble focusing
The symptoms listed here can be caused by health issues besides low T. Your doctor will likely perform a physical exam and review your lifestyle to determine the problem. In addition, they may run a blood test to check your levels. Men usually have between 300 and 1,000 nanograms (ng) of testosterone per deciliter (dL). If your test results show a low level, you may need to increase the hormone. This can be done naturally.
Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is most common. This involves using man-made hormones. There are several forms that your doctor can prescribe. They include gel, a patch, or an injection. TRT is not an option for men who have certain health issues, including prostate or breast cancer. TRT also may not help men who have low T due to advanced age.
TRT often is done in combination with other lifestyle changes. These changes promote overall good health. If you are obese, you should lose weight. You can do this by eating better and getting more exercise. Aim to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Try to control your stress levels. This allows your body to focus its energy on testosterone production.
Men low in testosterone should eat foods with zinc and vitamin D. These can help balance your hormones and produce more testosterone. Adult men should get about 11 milligrams of zinc per day. Zinc is in meat, poultry, seafood, and shellfish. Beans, nuts, and whole grains are good sources. These foods, plus dairy, also contain vitamin D. Adult men should get about 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D per day. You also should eat less sugar and saturated fat.
Things to consider
Your doctor may want to perform other tests to find the cause of low T. This will help them decide if you need other treatment, as well.
There are benefits and risks to TRT. The goal of therapy is to get rid of symptoms of low T. The treatment has been known to improve men’s sexual drive and mood. However, studies show that it may increase your risk of plaque buildup and heart disease. Talk to your doctor more about specific concerns. Make sure they know if you are at risk of any other health conditions.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Will I always have low testosterone?
- How long does TRT last?
- Should I take a supplement(s) to increase my testosterone?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.