Men: Understanding and Measuring Your Testosterone

Testosterone is predominately a male hormone. Although women have it in small amounts as well, this post is all about our boys. (Although our female patients may have to drag their guys in for testing. :))

Gentlemen, testosterone is the “fountain of youth” hormone. It’s part of what makes a guy feel like a “guy”. It makes you feel strong, vital, virile and ambitious.

As you age, however, testosterone levels gradually decline. This decline can have very little abnormal effect on some men, or it can have varied and far-reaching effects that can really wreak havoc.

Symptoms of Low/Decreasing Testosterone

Low testosterone has a lot of possible symptoms, such as:

  • Reduced sexual desire, or low libido
  • Fewer spontaneous erections
  • Impotence (erectile dysfunction)
  • Infertility
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Emotional changes, such as low self-confidence or lack of motivation
  • Physical changes, like increased body fat, reduced muscle bulk and strength, and decreased bone density

The Challenge of Measuring Your Testosterone

How do you find out if low testosterone is behind your symptoms? Usually testosterone is measured in the blood in two ways: bound and free. They’re different.

Total testosterone is all testosterone in the blood, much of which is “bound” to something called sex hormone binding globulin, some that’s  bound to albumin, and some that’s not bound to anything.

Free testosterone is made up of the second two–that bound to albumin and that not bound to anything. This is the testosterone the cells can actually use–it’s  what we call “bioavailable.” Only about 1/3 of total testosterone is free.

The free number is mainly what we’re interested in, but  there are a couple of problems. The first is that the “free” number is more of a calculation than a measurement–we’re using other measurements to do some math. So it’s not completely accurate.

The second problem is that even though we get a number, normal ranges can vary a lot between individuals. What’s normal for you may be typical. Levels are also age-related. You can try this page for reference.

Testing, though, is critical because it gives us a reference point.

Optimal Testosterone

Ideally, then, this is what we want to do:

  1. Test so that we have a baseline. That way, at least we can compare future numbers against something and see when things are changing. You can find a sample report here if you’re curious.
  2. Focus on optimal testosterone. That’s the level where you are not experiencing symptoms.
  3. Make the right health changes to keep your testosterone in its optimal range for you.

Tips for Restoring Optimal Testosterone Levels

Testosterone levels are related to other hormone levels, too–things like insulin and cortisol. That means your lifestyle can have a huge effect, and it’s generally our first treatment choice, although there are other options. We’ll often recommend that patients:

  1. Stop drinking too much.
  2. Get rid of extra weight. Fat cells make estrogen, which throws off testosterone levels.
  3. Avoid refined carbohydrates. Increased insulin levels suppress testosterone.
  4. Deal with stress. Stress hormone suppresses testosterone
  5. Get off the couch. Exercise is the key. It helps decrease the weight, burn off those carbs and helps deal with the stress. Weight lifting stimulates the muscle building which in turns stimulates testosterone. (Plus, when you’re exercising,you’re not sitting on the couch drinking that second beer!)

For more information on testing your testosterone levels, contact the clinic at 705-444-5331 or book online!

 

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