Everything You Need to Understand about Testosterone

Many people blame testosterone for male violence, implicate it in sports scandals, link it to sexual prowess, and promote it as an anti-aging tonic. It’s no wonder that this miracle hormone is so desired, particularly by gym goers. But does anyone really understand the truth of testosterone; what it is and what it does? What makes it so important?

Men have around ten times as much testosterone as women. While testosterone does do some important things for women, it plays such a different role for them that this will focus solely on how testosterone works in mine.

Testosterone and Development

Testosterone is the single most important male sex hormone needed for proper development and sexual function. So, just what is a hormone? To put it simply, they are chemical messengers produced by glands. They are ferried around the body through blood to stimulate organs to perform a particular function.

Testosterone has an important role in muscle building.
Testosterone has an important role in muscle building.

Testosterone is responsible for the physical changes of male puberty, including teste and penis development. It also stimulates the features associated with adult men such as body and facial hair. Testosterone also stimulates the testes to produce sperm.

The hormone is necessary for overall health as it plays a part in the growth of muscles and bones. It can also impact mood, libido/sex drive, and plays a part in mental ability.

Testosterone will be present in the human body throughout almost all of your life, beginning with fetal development. As a fetus develops, testosterone helps it to develop a male body and brain; as there are some differences, known as “sexual dimorphism” in the brain between genders.

Testosterone levels are highest when men are 20 to 30 years old. Testosterone levels will fall as men age, typically around 1-2% each year, but some research has suggested that not every man loses testosterone during the aging process.

It appears that one of the major reasons men lose testosterone as they age could be down to chronic conditions such as diabetes or obesity.

If a man takes care of themselves and remains in good health for the majority of their life, they could find their testosterone levels don’t change as they get older.

Too Little or Too Much

Having too little testosterone is generally caused by genetic disorders such as Klinefelter’s syndrome. This chromosomal disorder is one of the most common in men and it impairs the functionality of the testicles. It could also be caused by teste damage or a lack of hormones – but this is rare.

It’s believed that around 1 in 200 men under 60 and around 1 in 10 men over 60 may suffer from low testosterone levels, but the actual figure is unknown.

Having low testosterone levels can produce a range of effects on men of different ages. Low testosterone levels impairs the growth of the penis, testes, muscles, facial, and pubic hair in young boys and teenagers.

Low testosterone levels mean low sexual desire.
Low testosterone levels mean low sexual desire.

Men with low testosterone levels may find their height doesn’t match their peers and their voice may not deepen as it should.

Low testosterone levels affect adults differently, causing mood swings, irritability, low energy levels, trouble concentrating, reduced muscle strength, low sex drive, and abnormal fat distribution. This doesn’t mean that anyone with these symptoms has low testosterone however, as there could be a range of factors at play.

Research has suggested men with low testosterone levels are more at risk of chronic conditions like strokes and heart disease. Low testosterone levels also cause older men to have thinner bones which increases the risk of fractures.

Problems can also arise from having too much testosterone. While some people link testosterone to aggression, this claim has never stood the test of scrutiny. Research has instead shown that high testosterone levels are actually associated with empathy and care-giving.

Needlessly Supplementing

Men with testosterone levels in the mid-range – not too high or low – experience the highest longevity. Recent research has supported the idea that its best to avoid having too little or too much testosterone.

Testosterone therapy can help men with chronically low levels of the hormone to achieve normal levels of the hormone in their blood and improve their overall health. Testosterone therapy in boys can ensure they develop properly.

Testosterone supplements are not appropriate for men with normal levels of testosterone however, and it can even cause problems. Supplementing with testosterone can cause testes to shrink and prevent the production of sperm. It could take several months for your body to return to normal after you stop supplementing with testosterone.

There has been some controversy around studies that suggest older men who take testosterone are more at risk of cardiovascular disease but definitive results are yet to appear. What we can say for sure is that there’s little to no evidence that older men will experience those widely publicised “benefits” of taking testosterone; not unless they have been diagnosed with low testosterone levels.

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