Testosterone is the principle hormone in a group of hormones that fall under the term “androgen”. Testosterone is notorious for its role in sexual function, in addition to helping build muscle mass, maintain bone density and regulate hair growth. It is derived from cholesterol (like every other sex hormone) and its immediate precursor is DHEA. Although it is thought of as “the male hormone”, testosterone also plays an important role in women. While women’s bodies produce testosterone, it is in much smaller quantities than levels of testosterone found in men.
In men, testosterone is produced by the Leydig cells located in the testes. In women, testosterone is primarily secreted by the ovaries. Testosterone in men is primarily responsible for sperm production, but it plays a large role in the health of both men and women.
What is a Normal Testosterone Level?
This is an answer that will vary for everybody; there is not a magic number that indicates normal testosterone levels for every person, although healthy testosterone levels tend to range from about 270 to 1,070 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). If there is an ideal level of testosterone, it would probably be the amount of testosterone in our bodies before we hit the age of 30. For most of us, our bodies produce increased amounts of testosterone throughout our adolescence and into our early adult years. Once most of us hit 30, testosterone can begin to decrease by as much as 1 percent each year, and that decrease can have a negative effect on both men and women. After 40, that decrease becomes even more pronounced. Optimal levels of testosterone can help you:
- Improve bone density
- Build lean muscle mass
- Lose weight
- Boost your sex drive
- Reduce hot flashes and night sweats
- Improve memory and cognitive function
On the other hand, it is also possible for both men and women to be dealing with levels of testosterone that are too high. The origins of testosterone dominance in men can often be traced to unsupervised testosterone therapy, while high levels of testosterone in women can often be indicative of more serious issues like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), congenital adrenal hyperplasia, adrenal tumors, or even ovarian cancer or tumors. As is the case with other examples of imbalanced hormone levels, testosterone dominance can cause even further problems for women and men:
- Acne (especially on the shoulders and back)
- Oily skin
- Testicle shrinkage (in men)
- Hair loss
- Enlarged prostate (in men)
- Swelling of the clitoris (in women)
- Reduction in breast size (in women)
What is a Deficient Testosterone Level?
As we age, losing testosterone is inevitable. That is why testosterone deficiency is far more common than testosterone dominance. For men, this condition is often the result of male hypogonadism, wherein the body does not produce enough testosterone. Sometimes, men can develop hypogonadism early in life, even before birth. This condition, known as primary hypogonadism, is defined by a problem in the testicles (or ovaries in women) and can stunt development and even delay the onset of puberty. Primary hypogonadism can be a hereditary issue, but it can also be the result of more serious problems, such as Klinefelter syndrome (a dominance of x chromosomes), mumps of the testicles, injury to the testicles, undescended testicles, and cancer treatment. The other type of hypogonadism is known as secondary hypogonadism, a condition where the issue with testosterone production can be traced back to the brain instead of the testicles (in men) or the ovaries (in women). More specifically, secondary hypogonadism is the result of issues in the pituitary or hypothalamus. While secondary hypogonadism can be the result of other ailments like Kallmann syndrome (irregular development of the hypothalamus), pituitary disorders, misuse of opiate medications, inflammatory diseases, and HIV/AIDS, it can also be a common result of the aging process. As previously mentioned, both men and women see a decrease in the production of testosterone as soon as they hit the age of 30. In many cases, this form of secondary hypogonadism (also referred to as late onset hypogonadism) can be addressed by testosterone replacement therapy. Symptoms of low testosterone include:
- Low sex drive
- Inability to build and maintain muscle mass
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Breast enlargement (in men)
- Mood Swings
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Erectile dysfunction (in men)
- Infertility (in men)
How to Measure your Testosterone Level
Like with other hormones, there are a few options for measuring levels of testosterone in the human body. The two most common ways to measure testosterone levels are through blood (serum) and urine testing. Getting an accurate measurement of the levels of serum testosterone allows for a medical practitioner to assess the amount of total testosterone in the body, but the word “total” can be slightly misleading. That is because roughly 99 percent of testosterone is bound to proteins and, therefore, not available to be used by the body. Urine testing, on the other hand, has proven to be much more accurate, because it requires multiple tests throughout the day. This allows for an accurate reading that accounts for the fluctuations of testosterone levels throughout the day (a pattern known as a diurnal rhythm) and paints a more detailed picture of both total and bioavailable testosterone levels.
Testosterone and Heart Attacks
The relationship between testosterone and cardiovascular health is a complicated one. Excess levels of testosterone (like other types of androgen) can lead to increased levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which can eventually result in the onset of heart disease. However, many studies have also shown that prolonged periods of low testosterone levels can raise cholesterol. So how are we supposed to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol? One answer to that would be to make healthy lifestyle choices. There is a direct correlation between obesity and heart disease. There is also a direct connection between excess abdominal fat and low levels of testosterone; in fact, these two conditions play off each other and cause each other to increase in a feedback loop that only gets worse if they are not rectified. Exercising daily and eating nutrient-rich, healthy foods will go a long way in reducing the risk of heart disease.
Unfortunately, this can become less effective after we reach middle age due to secondary hypogonadism. Our bodies will naturally begin to produce less and less testosterone as we age, and low testosterone often leads to increased abdominal fact. While we are just beginning to scratch the surface on the correlation between testosterone levels and heart disease, a multi-year study from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City determined that testosterone replacement therapy for men with androgen deficiency does not increase their risk of heart disease, even for those who have pre-existing cases of heart disease. Furthermore, this study found that testosterone replacement therapy may actually reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and even death for older men who have inadequate levels of testosterone.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) Options
Here at BodyLogicMD, we use a couple of different TRT treatment methods so that you can choose whichever option works best for you.
Testosterone in gel/cream form is the easiest and most non-invasive application of bioidentical testosterone. A transdermal delivery system (TDS), the gel/cream goes on to your skin clear with no visible residue and quickly absorbs into your skin. Over time, the testosterone gel/cream will gradually and safely balance your testosterone levels.
Injections are the most direct application of testosterone, because 100% of your prescribed dose instantaneously enters your bloodstream as soon as you inject. While not quite as simple as a gel or cream, testosterone injections are a very popular form of testosterone replacement therapy, and many people are surprised at how easy the self-injection process can be.
We’re Here to Help
If you think that you may be suffering from testosterone deficiency, hormone testing is available to help determine where you stand. The highly trained bioidentical hormone practitioners at BodyLogicMD have helped tens of thousands of women and men achieve healthy testosterone levels, using a combination of bioidentical hormone therapy, stress reduction techniques, pharmaceutical-grade supplementation and personalized nutrition and fitness regimens. Based on the results of state-of-the-art diagnostic testing, BodyLogicMD-affiliated practitioners individually tailor a wellness program that has been specifically designed to meet your particular needs. Whether you end up treating testosterone deficiency with testosterone injections, testosterone cream/gel, or a sexual wellness program like SexualHealthPro, BodyLogicMD has many options available for helping you reverse the negative symptoms of aging!