Dr. Emily Cooper of the Diabesity Research Foundation joined KING 5 Morning News to discuss the health impact of low testosterone levels in men.

What are the most important things to know about testosterone?

Testosterone levels change throughout life. They begin to increase in puberty and peak in the 20's and they drop naturally with age. What is interesting is that male testosterone levels are on the decline in North America for the past two decades and we are seeing younger men with lower levels now.

How do testosterone levels decrease?

It could be something as simple as sleep deficits, extreme or chronic stress, irregular eating and underfueled exercise. Also, malnourishment or popular low-carb diets combined with lots of exercise can lower testosterone levels. Testosterone can convert to estrogen in belly fat, blocking further testosterone production and producing even more belly fat as well as breast tissue in men. Pthalates found in plastics may also be a culprit, interfering with testosterone production.

How do you know if your levels are low?

There are a number of common symptoms to watch for:

  • Problems concentrating
  • Mood- irritability/anxiety
  • Loss of muscle
  • Increased body fat
  • Increased breast tissue
  • Low sex drive
  • Sexual drive and function problems
  • Fatigue, low motivation
  • Low bone density

Is there something you can do to prevent the levels from going down?

Eat a balanced diet of carbs, proteins and fat. Stay away from extreme low carb diets. Get 8 hours of sleep a night. In terms of exercise, make sure it's fueled and you are well rested.  Vitamin D may also play a role so make sure your levels are not too low and always try and lower your stress!

How to improve testosterone:

  • Balanced nutrition
  • Adequate sleep
  • Fuel exercise
  • Vitamin D -- adequate levels
  • Lower stress
  • Avoid chemical toxins

Can you treat low testosterone medically? What about all the pills and potions online?

If the levels are still low even after correcting nutrition or sleep imbalance and there are symptoms, then testosterone can be prescribed in the form of gels, patches or injections. Unfortunately pills don't usually work since the dosing is difficult.  The online supplements are not the miracle they claim to be.  But the topical gels can rub off on clothing so may not be a good choice if women or children are in contact with laundry.  If taking a prescription testosterone, blood levels should be checked to make sure the dose is keeping levels in the optimal range.

Are there any precautions related to testosterone therapy?

Scientists have reported a potential association with heart attack risk, but the conclusion in most studies is that men who take testosterone may have increased energy and try to do more physical activity.  If they are not properly conditioned and have underlying undiagnosed cardiovascular risk, then they may be increasing their risk by pushing themselves harder when on testosterone therapy.

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