I see a lot of patients who think that their testosterone levels should be higher for various reasons. I would like to set the record straight.
Even I have been heard to say that it is the “elixir of a man’s life.” Indeed, testosterone is one seriously important molecule throughout men’s lives. In the womb, it determines anatomic maleness. And during puberty, when another splash of testosterone hits boys and sticks for good, I don’t have to tell you what it does: feeds the growth spurt, cracks the voice, encourages hair growth, acne, stronger muscles and is the ultimate governor of teenage thought and action.
Testosterone in Adults
Testosterone in men is essential for health and well-being. First isolated in 1935, it is an anabolic hormone in that it generally induces growth. And it does this all over the body. In the brain, it influences sex drive, assertiveness, mood, energy and some aspects of thinking and verbal memory. In the heart, it helps dilate the arteries, which is good. Testosterone increases muscle strength and maintains normal bone density. It also reduces belly fat. In the kidney, it stimulates a hormone called erythropoietin that keeps blood counts normal. It also strengthens the immune system and helps blood to clot. In the male sexual organs, normal testosterone levels are important for erections and sperm production. So, it’s about as close to an “elixir” as any single circulating molecule in our bodies.
A List of What Testosterone Isn’t
Testosterone is not as vital to us as oxygen. For the record, here is what testosterone isn’t or doesn’t do:
- It is not a common reason for erectile dysfunction (<6% of cases).
- It is not a common cause for low sex drive.
- It will not help you get more dates or make you a sex machine.
- It will not magically make you a muscle man.
- It will not magically cause weight loss or reduce fat. This requires a diet and exercise program.
- It will not help you live forever; it falls with age.
- It does not cause prostate cancer or liver cancer.
- It is not higher during periods of stress; in fact, stress lowers testosterone levels.
- It is generally lower in athletes than non-athletes.
- It does not by itself cause baldness. Baldness is mainly genetic.
- It does not get lower the more you masturbate.
- It will not make you taller or your hands bigger as an adult.
- More testosterone will not solve all of your problems.
What’s absolutely key to testosterone management is that there are symptoms present in association with low levels. In such cases, the benefits of treatment are clear. Think of testosterone as oil in your car: it helps everything work better, but when a problem occurs, it is usually something else that has gone wrong.