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Male menopause: How to know if you have low testosterone

Is male menopause a real medical condition? Not exactly, but an age-related drop in testosterone can produce a host of symptoms and health complications that may require medical attention.

“Healthy testosterone levels are important,” says Siraj Abdullah, D.O., a Piedmont family and sports medicine physician. “Testosterone helps you build muscle, have healthy energy levels and maintain sexual function.”

Signs of low testosterone in men

Dr. Abdullah says there are several indicators of low testosterone in men, including:

  • Erectile dysfunction, such as trouble achieving or maintaining an erection

  • Decreased libido, or sex drive

  • Hot flashes

  • Increased breast tissue (gynecomastia)

  • Loss of body hair

While more research is needed, he says the following symptoms may also be related to low testosterone in men:

Generally speaking, low testosterone isn’t a dangerous medical condition, says Dr. Abdullah.

“However, it may increase your risk of osteoporosis and fracture,” he says. “And if you’re trying to have children, low testosterone can affect your sperm count.”

How to talk to your doctor about low testosterone

If you suspect you have low testosterone, Dr. Abdullah recommends scheduling an appointment with your primary care provider. While it can be uncomfortable to mention your symptoms to your physician, they’ve heard it all before and are there to help you.

“I tell my patients that sex is a normal part of life,” he says. “If you’re having problems from a sexual standpoint, talk to your physician to see if something is going on. Sexual dysfunction can be caused by other factors, not just low testosterone. Start a conversation with your physician if something doesn’t seem right.”

Dr. Abdullah says you can expect your physician to:

  • Review your personal and family medical history.

  • Perform a physical.

  • Run lab tests to check your testosterone levels and other hormones.

If your labs indicate low testosterone, they may suggest testosterone replacement therapy or further tests.

Treatment options for low testosterone

“Testosterone starts to decrease around age 30 in men,” says Dr. Abdullah. “Most people will have some form of decreased testosterone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they need testosterone replacement therapy.”

The primary treatment for low testosterone is a prescription supplement in the form of an injection, patch or topical treatment.

“The most common treatment is the injection given every two weeks or month,” he says. “The topical form can potentially cause complications in your loved ones, such as your children, grandchildren or partner.”

Testosterone replacement therapy isn’t a good option for everyone, particularly if you have:

  • Prostate cancer

  • Elevated PSA levels

  • An enlarged prostate

  • Heart disease

Dr. Abdullah also warns against taking testosterone supplements that aren’t prescribed by your health care provider.

“Certain over-the-counter supplements and medication sold online can have side effects like sexual dysfunction, decreased sperm count, mood problems and anger issues,” he says. “If you currently take a testosterone supplement, you have to wean off it in a controlled way. It’s important to work closely with your physician to get the right dose of testosterone.”

How to naturally maintain healthy testosterone levels

Lack of sleep and obesity can also cause low testosterone,” says Dr. Abdullah. “Fat cells contain more estrogen, while muscle contains more testosterone. If you’re overweight or obese, it’s important to eat well and exercise to achieve a healthy body weight.”

He adds, “It’s also essential to eat enough protein and do resistance training to build and maintain muscle mass. This is important for men of all ages, from their 20s to their 80s and 90s.”

He recommends prioritizing resistance training to build muscle. This includes resistance band training, weightlifting and bodyweight exercises.

Sleep and stress management can also help maintain healthy hormone levels. Check out tips for managing stress and getting a better night’s sleep.

If you have signs of low testosterone, talk to your primary care provider. Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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