Suboptimal Testosterone: The Underappreciated and Underdiagnosed Problem Plaguing Millions of People
Testosterone levels in men have declined significantly over the last several decades. Some unquestioningly champion this decline while others hunt for the reason(s) why.
‘Everything’ as an answer seems too easy but really when you look at increases in blue light exposure, cheap & easy means of dopamine access through media, social networks and pornography and a general decline in diet and lifestyle it starts to make sense.
Testosterone levels are barely monitored by the medical profession. It may have to do with stigmas against testosterone therapies and the fact that T is classified as a schedule 1 drug, defined as “high-risk substances that are easily abused and are highly addictive”. The fact of the matter is that one of the most important markers in men’s health is one of the most poorly addressed.
When it comes to male health and performance, it’s quite literally the lifeblood (pun).
Low T can present in many ways and is not limited to just one method of manifestation:
Diabetes & Insulin Resistance
In medicine, testosterone function is important enough that it should be a component of annual physicals and MDs should be actively questioning their clients at any age for any signs of hypogonadism (Low T).
The problem comes with the fact that hypogonadism has no specific definition tacked onto it, therefore, there is no established standard of care, so it goes disregarded.
There are estimates that suggest some 13,000,000 men in the U.S. suffer from low T. Very few of which will seek a provider who will test for it and even fewer will seek appropriate treatment for it.
Testosterone is thought to be associated purely with sexual performance and because of this, problems are commonly swept under the rug. The reality is that difficulties in the bedroom as a result of low T are typically indicators of an increase in the risk of all sorts of diseases, ranging from diabetes to heart disease.
Unfortunately, with the way the healthcare system currently operates, very few providers will check these levels for you and in some cases will argue it being unnecessary.
Benefits of Normal T
Testosterone is a giant factor in every facet of a man’s health and a lesser but equally important factor in many women.
Regarded as the fitness and sexual performance hormone, you can achieve a high fitness level with awful testosterone.
Low T can present in other ways, such as, brain fog/confusion, fatigue, chronic inflammation and depression.
So, what are some of the benefits of having GOOD testosterone levels?
It Protects & Improves Your Heart Function
Optimal testosterone levels tend to protect the heart while low testosterone levels come associated with an increased risk of heart disease. The idea that testosterone is bad for you tends to come from world of anabolic steroid use.
Low T also tends to harbor a link between early death in men.
It Decreases Visceral Body Fat
Good T levels help maintain insulin sensitivity which aids in preventing the accumulation of body fat.
Increased free testosterone = better insulin regulation = prevention of overstoring fat.
On the flip side, having increased body fat actually lowers your testosterone levels.
Obesity is correlated to an increased aromatase activity – what the heck is aromatase? It’s an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen.
It Boosts Brain Function
If you look around it seems like everyone has anxiety, some form of chronic disease, etc.
Testosterone plays a considerable role in regulating the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that is responsible for generating emotional responses and is also considered a key component of your fear response. It also allows us more conscious control and willpower due to its involvement in our pre-frontal cortex.
So, without optimal T levels, you’re more apt to lack willpower and more prone to negative, depressive emotions.
Testosterone plays a significant role in the presence of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the “reward” or feel-good hormone. If you’ve ever had a really good workout, achieved a major goal in life, won at a Monopoly, etc. you’ve probably experienced a release of dopamine. You worked hard at these things and your brain rewards you. But the dopamine drip becomes addictive, and you’ll begin to hunt for ways to achieve its effects in cheaper and unhealthier ways. This is why you’re seeing an uptick in video game and porn addictions in all ages.
The point of this dopamine/testosterone diatribe is that the T helps you promote, regulate and maintain good dopamine levels. Increased screen time – social media, phones, video games – ALL FORMS end up straining the dopamine cycle.
It Improves Muscle Gains
Well, this is a “No Shit” moment. It helps you train, recover and build more/better muscle. This is why there is such a stigma associated with it. “It’s cheating!” they proclaim. Well, if you’re being paid to play a sport or compete on the international stage – it’s cheating.
But how many of you reading this are being paid to exercise regularly and be in peak shape?
For us common folk, optimizing T levels through diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and YES, even medically supervised hormone therapy should be considered normal. When T levels have been tested and deemed lacking, supplementation should be as common other hormone therapies. No one casts judgement on someone for taking thyroid meds or insulin injections.
My Thoughts on Hormone Therapy
As if you haven’t already had enough of my thoughts…
I am not against Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT). I admit that I was, at one point.
I considered any form of oral, topical or injectable hormone replacements to be cheating. I thought that if I my body couldn’t hack it and make what it needed, well then, I’d just have to do without.
Two or three years ago, I asked my PCP to look at my testosterone levels, just to see if they were optimal. He asked me to look down as he studied what was left of my hairline. He proceeded to tell me that I “had male pattern baldness and that was evidence that my levels were good”.
THAT WAS HIS TEST! No blood tests! Nothing!
Fast forward to 15 months ago, I had an official blood draw with lab tests and wouldn’t you know it. My levels were 9 points below the absolute lowest accepted value for men 60 AND OLDER.
I’ve been doing TRT since then and couldn’t feel better. While I don’t look much different, other functions have improved dramatically. Brain fog and unexplained fatigue are gone, I’m sleeping better and recovering from workouts on pace with what I expect out of a 38-year-old, slightly used/abused body.
I encourage you to look into TRT if you suspect you may have suboptimal testosterone and be suffering from any one of its many symptoms. If you have questions or need guidance one where to begin, please feel free to email or call me.