Testosterone has become one of the go-to prescriptions for men in their 50s and older. Some men even call it the “fountain of youth,” but studies show that we need to weigh the risks and the benefits for patients.
Men’s natural testosterone levels decrease about 1 percent each year starting at the age of 35. So, by the time they hit their 50s, patients often complain of symptoms like low libido, fatigue, memory loss and a loss of desire to socialize.
When patients bring these issues to the attention of their doctors, they are often prescribed testosterone treatments in the form of a gel, injections or a patch. But it’s important to see a urologist before starting any testosterone therapy to get a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and check the size of your prostate.
Your urologist will also check your testosterone levels to see if they are normal – anywhere between 300-1000 ng/dl. These levels are typically checked early in the morning because circadian rhythms cause your testosterone to be higher in the morning and lower in the afternoon.
Testosterone levels that drop too low can lead to metabolic syndrome. But it’s also important to make sure if you are prescribed testosterone therapy, that your levels don’t get too high as this can double your risk for heart attack. Studies show that 25 percent of men currently on testosterone therapy have never had their blood levels checked – which is a scary thought, considering the risks.
Certain conditions can increase your risk for low testosterone like:
- Heart disease
- Cholesterol problems
- Low libido
Obesity is a major factor for some patients suffering from low testosterone. Belly fat contains enzymes that convert testosterone to estrogen. Gynecomastia, or the growth of abnormally large breasts in males, is a result to increasing estrogen levels in the body.
It’s important to remember that low libido is different than sexual dysfunction. Sexual dysfunction is treated with prescription pills like Viagra, Cialis or Levitra. You may have the drive, but you are enduring a mechanical problem.
Loss of sexual desire, on the other hand, often comes down to testosterone. So low libido and sexual dysfunction are different diseases that need to be treated with different treatments.
Testosterone therapy can be great for some patients, but the most important thing to remember is that your doctor should be monitoring your levels to ensure you receive the benefits, without the risks.
Dr. David B. Samadi is the Chairman of the Department of Urology and Chief of Robotic Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He is a board-certified urologist, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of urological disease, with a focus on robotic prostate cancer treatments. Dr. Samadi joined Fox News Channel in 2009 as a medical contributor. To learn more please visit his websites
By Jeffrey Martinez, Dr David .B. Samadi