How Low Testosterone Affects Health, Mood, and SexLow
Testosterone and Your Health
Researchers are unlocking the
mysteries of how low testosterone is related to men's overall health. Along the
way, they're uncovering connections between low testosterone and other health
Diabetes, metabolic syndrome,
obesity, and high blood pressure have all been linked to testosterone
deficiency. Low testosterone isn't known to cause these health problems, and
replacing testosterone isn't the cure. Still, the associations between low
testosterone and other medical conditions are interesting and worth a look.
Low Testosterone Indicate Poor Health?
In recent years, researchers have
noticed general links between low testosterone and other medical conditions.
One showed that in 2,100 men over age 45, the odds of having low testosterone
- 2.4 times higher for obese men
- 2.1 times higher for men with diabetes
- 1.8 times higher for men with high blood pressure
Experts don't suggest that low
testosterone causes these conditions. In fact, it might be the other way
around. That is, men with medical problems or who are in poor general health
might then develop low testosterone.
Research into the relationship
between low testosterone and several other health conditions is ongoing.
and Low Testosterone
A link between diabetes and low
testosterone is well established. Men with diabetes are more likely to have low
testosterone. And men with low testosterone are more likely to later develop
diabetes. Testosterone helps the body's tissues take up more blood sugar in
response to insulin. Men with low testosterone more often have insulin
resistance: they need to produce more insulin to keep blood sugar normal.
As many as half of men with diabetes
have low testosterone, when randomly tested. Scientists aren't sure whether
diabetes causes low testosterone, or the other way around. More research is
needed, but short-term studies show testosterone replacement may improve blood
sugar levels and obesity in men with low testosterone.
and Low Testosterone
Obesity and low testosterone are
tightly linked. Obese men are more likely to have low testosterone. Men with
very low testosterone are also more likely to become obese.
Fat cells metabolize testosterone to
estrogen, lowering testosterone levels. Also, obesity reduces levels of sex
hormone binding globulin (SHBG), a protein that carries testosterone in the
blood. Less SHBG means less testosterone.
Losing weight through exercise can
increase testosterone levels. Testosterone supplements in men with low
testosterone can also reduce obesity slightly.
Syndrome and Low Testosterone
Metabolic syndrome is the name for a
condition that includes the presence of abnormal cholesterol levels, high blood
pressure, waistline obesity, and high blood sugar. Metabolic syndrome increases
the risk for heart attacks and strokes.
Studies show that men with low
testosterone are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome. In short-term
studies, testosterone replacement improved blood sugar levels and obesity in
men with low testosterone. The long-range benefits and risks are still unknown.
and Heart Disease
Testosterone has mixed effects on
the arteries. Many experts believe testosterone contributes to the higher rates
of heart disease and high blood pressure that tend to affect men at younger
ages. By this reasoning, high testosterone might be bad for the heart.
But testosterone deficiency is
connected to insulin resistance, obesity, and diabetes. Each of these problems
increases cardiovascular risk. Men with diabetes and low testosterone also have
higher rates of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
A certain amount of testosterone may
be necessary for healthy arteries because it's converted into estrogen, which
protects arteries from damage. As yet, no studies show that testosterone
replacement protects the heart or prevents heart attacks.
and Other Conditions
Low testosterone often exists with
other medical conditions:
In a study of almost 4,000 men older than 70, those with the lowest
testosterone levels were more than twice as likely to be depressed. This
link remained even after allowing for age, general health, obesity, and
- Erectile dysfunction (ED): Problems with erections are one of the most common
symptoms of low testosterone. Most ED is caused by atherosclerosis. Men
with risk factors for atherosclerosis -- diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or
obesity -- often have low testosterone, too.
- High blood pressure:
The effects of testosterone on blood pressure are many and complex. Men
with high blood pressure may be almost twice as likely to have low
testosterone as men with normal blood pressure. On the other hand, too
much testosterone can increase blood pressure. Testosterone acts in
multiple ways on blood vessels, so this may account for the varying
Replacement Treatment Options
The question that remains is, does
low testosterone cause or worsen medical problems like diabetes? Or are people
who develop diabetes, or other health problems, simply more likely to also have
Studies to answer these questions
are under way, but it will be years before we know the results. In the
meantime, remember that testosterone replacement hasn't been conclusively shown
to improve any health condition other than testosterone deficiency and its
symptoms. For men with low testosterone levels as measured by a blood test who
also have symptoms of low testosterone, the decision to take testosterone
replacement is one to make with your doctor.