Male Hormone Replacement Making News
Dr. Jake Psenka shares the factors in determining the optimal testosterone level and a man's overall health
When most people hear or read the words male hormone replacement, they immediately connect this to “the” male hormone, testosterone, and rightly so. Testosterone’s effects start early, at about the eighth week of life and promote the development of the male reproductive system. During puberty, testosterone encourages hair growth, bone and muscle strength and a deepening of the voice. Testosterone levels also affect adult men with decreased libido, sexual performance and accumulation of abdominal fat.
The medical literature and personal clinical observations regarding testosterone levels in men are providing some interesting findings. Notably, there seems to be a growing body of men with lower testosterone levels versus men with elevated levels. This is not something occurring only in older men, but younger men, as well. Otherwise healthy men in their 30s are being found to have low levels of testosterone in their bodies. Also, younger men with comorbid conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease are being found to have lower levels of testosterone compared to men without these conditions. Due in part to these findings of low testosterone being linked with other conditions a new concept is being formed; that of the optimal testosterone level.
Might there be a particular level of testosterone in a man’s body that confers a health advantage? This is a question that does not yet have a clear answer. If there is an optimal testosterone level, what is it? To be sure, more isn’t always better. There are certainly conditions where too much testosterone is contraindicated, just as there are problems associated with having too little. While there is no clear consensus on what the optimal level of testosterone may be, one thing is for sure; when assessing male hormone levels, it is essential to consider the big picture.
It would be a mistake to examine only a few parameters when checking testosterone levels. A good analysis should include several tests to obtain a complete picture. The total testosterone, the free testosterone and the bioavailable testosterone levels are all useful for assessing overall levels. Other laboratory tests, including red blood cell counts, prostate specific antigen level and measurements of hormones related to testosterone production are necessary to see the big picture.
Even a type of estrogen, estradiol, is important to evaluate, because testosterone can be converted into this hormone is some circumstances. Laboratory results are not only essential for determining a man’s testosterone big picture, but also provide invaluable baseline data should male hormone replacement therapy be started.
Male hormone replacement; i.e., taking testosterone, is becoming a topic of conversation that is no longer confined to the locker rooms of errant professional athletes as more and more men are seeking out hormone replacement therapy. Testosterone levels can be increased a variety of ways, including shots, creams, pellets and gels. There are even herbal remedies claiming the ability to create big boosts in hormone levels.
There are potential advantages and disadvantages to all the different types of testosterone therapy, and the decision to pursue this type of treatment should not to be taken without a full medical examination and consultation by a responsible physician. To do otherwise, or taking hormones for reasons such as performance enhancement, may lead to health problems down the road.
It is very likely that the optimal testosterone level for all men will never be determined, and that the ideal optimal level of testosterone in a man will be based on each man’s individual clinical picture.
Dr. Jonathan (Jake) Psenka has been practicing naturopathic medicine at Longevity Medical Health Center in Phoenix since 2002. For more information, visit LongevityMedical.com or phone 602-428-6151.