Testosterone is the hormone that makes men, men. This all-important hormone is responsible for maintaining high levels of muscle and low levels of fat as well as our ambition, our sense of well-being, and our sex drive to name a few. There is also mounting evidence that ideal testosterone levels are important for keeping our hearts healthy too.
Are the testosterone levels of American men in trouble? A 2007 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests that they are. The study, named the Massachussets Male Aging Study, found that the testosterone levels of American men have been in rapid decline over the past two decades. As you can see in the graphic below, each generation of men had lower total and free levels of testosterone than the generation before. (Total testosterone is the amount circulating in the blood. some of which is bound to a protein called SHBG which renders it inactive. Free testosterone is the testosterone that is in your blood but available to your cells to use). Not. Good.
Even more disconcerting is that the decline did not seem attributable to health or lifestyle. That means regardless of whether you exercised, considered yourself in good health, smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol, were overweight, etc the results were the same: on average a man had lower testosterone than a man of his same age a decade before.
Cause For Concern?
Before we get into what actions you should take to guard your testosterone levels, let’s take a closer look at the study. In the study:
- The men were middle-aged and older
- The study used subjects from the Boston area
- It’s only one study
Although it was a long-term study, it was only one study. It would be nice to see other studies replicate the results in other areas. Is something in Boston causing testosterone levels to drop in men? We don’t know. Is this happening to younger men in their 20s and 30s too? We don’t know. Good science asks then answers questions like these so we can paint a more definite picture. That being said, this should be cause for concern.
What To Do
First thing you should do is to get your testosterone levels tested. In fact, I recommend that all my male clients to get a full hormonal panel. (By the way, when I say hormones, I mean sex hormones. There are a number of different hormones in your body that do all types of other things but we’re not talking about them).
Why should you check other hormones? Because science is just beginning to define the relationships between the different hormones and there appears to be a balance between them – especially when it comes to testosterone and estrogen. Getting a baseline reading will help you identify trends and potential problems instead of waiting until it becomes a full-blown issue.
In fact, I would go as far to say that it should be part of a regular check up at your doctors. Although this is sure to be part of the future of medicine, today’s doctors are in strong disagreement as to the importance of hormones and whether we should be doing anything about them. My advice: Don’t listen to them unless they’re an expert in the subject – which most doctors are not. I’ve had numerous conversations with different doctors about hormones and it’s actually scary how little some of them know about the subject. Most doctors are too busy to stay current with the massive amount of research coming out of academia.
Without going into detail, I’ve actually had hormonal problems and I had to start figuring out some of this stuff for myself. Getting your hormones tested will give you the information you need to make informed decisions. We’ll get much more into this subject in the future but for right now… Get tested!!!
Travison TG, Araujo AB, O’Donnell AB, et al. A population-level decline in serum testosterone levels in American men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007;92:196-202.