Your testosterone level begins declining with age, but really how low is too low?
While a clear threshold delineating the “low” of low testosterone remains undetermined since many healthy men would not even know they had a deficiency, some studies have defined it as less than 300 (or 250) nanograms per deciliter of blood.
Common symptoms of testosterone deficiency include low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, mood problems and sleep disturbances accompanied by other physical alterations such as frailty (osteoporosis), variable effects on cholesterol metabolism and at the lowest levels – hot flashes.
Testosterone is the hormone that builds bone and muscle during puberty, deepens the voice, incites facial and pubic hair and causes the penis and testes to grow larger.
During adolescence and young adulthood testosterone peaks, but around the age of 30, levels decline at around 1 percent each year. A more steady waning sets in after age 40 at an average of 1 percent to 2 percent each year.
Lower levels of testosterone in men is often called “andropause,” though this gradual decline of testosterone levels over many years is distinguished from women’s menopause where estrogen levels plummet to lower levels over several months.
Little is known about the long-term health effects of low testosterone, but it is associated with several chronic medical conditions including obesity, diabetes, depression and potentially cardiovascular diseases and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have also shown that men with low testosterone were more likely to have larger waist girth, which can intensify the risk for heart diseases and diabetes.
While this more deleterious aspect of very low testosterone can be more worrisome, treatments such as testosterone replacement therapy could be an option for those men who want to thwart below-normal levels of testosterone (hypogonadism), provided that there are no medical conditions which the testosterone could potentially worsen such as an enlarged prostate or evidence of prostate cancer.
The best thing to do is to talk to your doctor if you think your testosterone levels are low. Treating low testosterone in the absence of symptoms, however, will be unlikely to help.