Movember has made the month of November synonymous with Men’s Health. And what else do I consider synonymous with Men’s Health? Testosterone. This month, it couldn’t be more fitting that we talk about Testosterone and its important role in the health and wellness of men.
First, let’s have a quick biology 101 lesson:
Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone. Hormones are chemical messengers that travel through our bloodstream and communicate with our cells to evoke an action or change. Testosterone is primarily produced in the testes, although the adrenal glands contribute to testosterone production to a lesser degree.
Testosterone plays an important role in:
- Development of male reproductive organs
- Sperm production or spermatogenesis
- Libido and sexual function
- Muscle mass and strength
- Bone density
- Production of Red Blood Cells
- Mood and mental health
- Cognitive function
- Energy levels
Men, like women, experience a natural decline in hormones throughout their lifespan. Although, unlike women, the decline is more gradual and more variable from person to person. Other factors that can lower testosterone include hormonal disorders, chronic medical conditions, obesity, certain medications, stress, and sleep apnea. Given the influence of testosterone, as mentioned above, it’s in your best interest to optimize and maintain healthy testosterone levels throughout your lifespan.
If testosterone is so important, how would I be able to recognize if my levels are low and require attention? I tell my patients that there are several symptoms that could be suggestive of low testosterone. If you’re no longer waking up with a spontaneous erection, this is often an indicator of low testosterone, as is a decrease in libido and erectile dysfunction. Low testosterone can also result in fatigue, low energy, decreased muscle mass, increased visceral fat, reduced bone density, mood changes, brain fog, hair loss, and even hot flashes!
A questionnaire, ADAM (Androgen Deficiency in the Aging Male), was developed to help identify if you may be deficient in testosterone. You can easily complete this questionnaire if you think this might be a concern for you.
- Do you have a decrease in libido (sex drive)?
- Do you have a lack of energy?
- Do you have a decrease in strength &/or endurance?
- Have you lost height?
- Have you noticed a decreased “enjoyment of life”?
- Are you sad &/or grumpy?
- Are your erections less strong?
- Have you noted a recent deterioration in your ability to play sports?
- Are you falling asleep after dinner?
- Has there been a recent deterioration in your work performance?
Note: A result is considered “positive” if you answer yes to questions 1 or 7 or any other 3 questions.
Strategies for Maintaining Healthy Testosterone Levels
Physical activity has been shown to boost testosterone levels. Incorporating both aerobic exercises and strength training into your routine can contribute to maintaining a healthy hormonal balance. Regular exercise also contributes to a healthy body weight and composition, which helps to maintain optimal testosterone levels.
Make healthy nutrition a priority!
A well-rounded, nutrient-rich diet is crucial for overall health, including hormonal balance. Ensure your diet includes an adequate caloric intake, healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and sufficient vitamins and minerals like zinc, vitamin D, magnesium, and fiber. Limiting sugar and processed foods can help maintain healthy hormone levels.
Catch those ZZZ’s
Quality sleep is essential for hormonal regulation. Sleep is when our body goes through the “repair process,” so lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can lead to disruptions in testosterone production. Aim for 7-9 hours of QUALITY sleep each night.
Minimize your stress!
Chronic stress can contribute to hormonal imbalances. Evaluate where your stress is coming from and what you can do to help reduce it. Incorporating stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, or deep-breathing exercises can positively impact testosterone levels.
Of course, if you optimize your pillars of wellness and still find yourself struggling with symptoms suggestive of low testosterone, the next step would be talking to your healthcare provider. Some medications and supplements can help improve testosterone levels, but this is very individualized and requires close monitoring comparing symptoms and bloodwork.
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