Testosterone is an essential hormone responsible for much more than sparking those fireworks in the bedroom. A deficiency can lead to fatigue, depression, decreased muscle mass and poor bone health. A “low T” diagnosis is often overlooked because so many of the symptoms mimic other medical disorders. Let’s answer the essential questions about this elusive condition.
Who needs replacement?
First and foremost, it all starts with a low testosterone blood level. This test should be drawn in the morning when your levels are at their highest. If this test is low, then a “free” or “bioavailable” level should be tested. However, a low level alone does not clinch the diagnosis, especially for a mild decrease. To warrant treatment, you would need to have at least one symptom commonly associated with “low T.” Your physician will be able to sort out these subtleties.
How can you raise your testosterone naturally?
You have more control over your hormone levels than you may think. Here are the best ways to raise your testosterone naturally:
- Lower your body fat percentage: Testosterone is stored in fat, making it less available in your bloodstream.
- Exercise: Resistance training to build muscle is the most effective for boosting your testosterone, but all forms will increase natural production and reduce body fat.
- Reduce stress: High stress can increase your cortisol levels, a hormone that can directly reduce testosterone levels.
- Make sleep a priority: Sleep deprivation will lower your testosterone production.
- Take vitamin D: Most people are deficient. Have your physician check your level.
What are the forms of replacement?
Daily dosing with topical creams, gels, or patches is the closest thing to matching your natural testosterone production. Some men prefer injections, but these can result in high levels in the days following the injection and a rebound deficiency leading up to the next dose. Placement of subcutaneous testosterone pellets have the convenience of twice-yearly dosing, but they share the same downside as injections.
Is replacement dangerous?
When appropriately prescribed and monitored by a physician, testosterone replacement is usually safe and effective. Here are some cautions:
- Replacement will lower your body’s natural production.
- Heart disease can be associated with either abnormally high or low testosterone levels.
- Testosterone can aggravate urinary symptoms caused by an enlarged prostate. Although testosterone will not cause prostate cancer, it can incite growth of existing prostate cancer cells.
- Testosterone stimulates the production of red blood cells. An excess of these cells can thicken your blood and block your arteries.
See your doctor if you have any symptoms that may be related to low testosterone. Careful attention to your health now will lead to physical and mental independence for decades to come. And that’s worth celebrating! Be sure to look for my article in the next issue, “A Men’s Update on Prostate Health.”
Scott D. Miller, MD, MBA, is Wellstar’s Medical Director of Urology and of Robotic Surgery. He has practiced in Atlanta for over 20 years and sees patients at Wellstar Urology in Roswell, Wellstar North Fulton Hospital and Wellstar Avalon Health Park. Wellstar North Fulton Hospital offers the Know Your Heart Screening that can determine your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other serious conditions. Call 770-956-STAR (7827) to learn more or schedule an appointment.
Scott D. Miller, MD, MBA • Wellstar North Fulton Hospital 470-956-4230 • www.scottdmillermd.com