How to test for low testosterone

How Testosterone Relates to Men's Health

May 24, 2022

Leon Robinson

How does low testosterone affect your health?

We all know that testosterone is the primary male hormone responsible for a man’s sex drive.  Did you know that testosterone plays other essential roles in men’s health and the body’s proper functioning?  Testosterone is vital in building muscle mass, preventing loss of bone density, promoting cardiovascular health, and maintaining psychological health.  Our body's systems and processes are for the most part based on a series of delicate balances.  When testosterone levels are off – either too low or too high – a variety of complications can arise.  Health issues related to decreased testosterone levels are a common problem for men but only around 5-10% seek treatment when they experience symptoms of low testosterone.  Low testosterone can cause osteoporosis, loss of muscle mass, weight gain, increased blood pressure, and increased risk for conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

What Causes Low Testosterone Levels In Men?  

For Men, the loss of testosterone is a normal part of the aging process. The decline usually starts after the age of 30 and continues at a rate of about one percent per year. The older the man, the more likely he is to have low testosterone.  However, while most men will experience a decrease in testosterone as they grow older, not everyone will be affected by it in the same way.  How and when someone starts to feel the effects of lowered testosterone will depend on the person.  In addition to the natural effects of aging, other factors can contribute to lowered levels.  These include injuries, infections, obesity, stress, alcohol abuse, liver or kidney disease, pituitary dysfunction, steroid use, some medications, and radiation or chemotherapy treatments for cancer.

Testosterone and Estrogen

Estrogen levels and testosterone levels are closely related. In fact, one of the primary causes of low estrogen is low testosterone. Estrogen is found in small-but-critical concentrations in men. It needs to be in balance with the rest of your hormones, especially testosterone, for you to feel well.  As men age, we often make less testosterone and produce less estradiol, a form of estrogen, as well.

If your testosterone is low, your body doesn’t have the raw materials needed to create more estradiol. If you have low testosterone, you may have low estrogen (estradiol) too, probably leading to the symptoms of a hormone imbalance. That’s why low testosterone symptoms and low estrogen symptoms often look similar. Changes often attributed to testosterone deficiency might be partly or entirely due to the accompanying decline in estradiol.

Diabetes and Low Testosterone

A link between diabetes and low testosterone is well established. Men with diabetes are more likely to have low testosterone and men with low testosterone are more likely to later develop diabetes. Testosterone helps the body's tissues take up more blood sugar in response to insulin. Men with low testosterone more often have insulin resistance, meaning they need to produce more insulin to keep blood sugar normal.  When randomly tested as many as half of men with diabetes have low testosterone.

Obesity and Low Testosterone

Obesity and low testosterone are tightly linked. Obese men are more likely to have low testosterone. Men with very low testosterone are also more likely to become obese.  Fat cells metabolize testosterone to estrogen, lowering testosterone levels. Also, obesity reduces levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), a protein that carries testosterone in the blood. Less SHBG means less free testosterone.

For some men, losing weight through exercise and lifestyle changes can increase testosterone levels. 

Metabolic Syndrome and Low Testosterone

Studies show that men with low testosterone are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome.  Metabolic syndrome is the name for a condition that includes the presence of abnormal cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, waistline obesity, and high blood sugar. Metabolic syndrome increases the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

How to Raise Testosterone Levels

The most effective way to avoid illness and naturally raise testosterone is to exercise and maintain a healthy weight. Men who exercise regularly tend to have higher testosterone levels, while men who are overweight often have lower testosterone levels. Adopting and following a healthy, balanced diet can also improve T levels. A healthy diet includes foods rich in vitamin D and zinc (tuna, low-fat milk with vitamin D, egg yolks, and black beans), lean proteins, and healthy fats. Besides helping maintain your testosterone levels, those foods also improve heart health.

How is Low Testosterone tested?

It is important to take action if you are experiencing symptoms of low testosterone.  These can include lowered sex drive, depression, fatigue, moodiness, irritability, loss of muscle strength, hair loss, and weight gain. If you have one or more of the above symptoms, blood testing to check your testosterone levels is a great place to start.  The best time to test is earlier in the morning when testosterone levels are usually highest.  Additional testing may be necessary to help get a full picture and determine what the best course of action is.

Request A Test offers several tests that will help you to assess your testosterone levels as well as other related measurements.  Check out our men's health testing category for a full selection.  Some of the most popular options include:

Total Testosterone Blood Test - Measures testosterone levels in the blood. 

Free Testosterone Blood Test – Measures free or unbound testosterone levels in the blood.  Our free testosterone test is often ordered as a follow-up to the Total Testosterone test when testosterone levels are low.

Testosterone, Free (Direct) With Total Testosterone - In some cases, Total Testosterone and Free Testosterone are ordered together to get a more comprehensive evaluation of testosterone levels. 

Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin Blood Test - This test is typically ordered when a person is experiencing signs of abnormal testosterone levels which do not seem to be reflected by their testosterone blood test results. 

Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) Panel – This panel offers several blood tests that can be useful for men to take to monitor testosterone levels and check for potential side effects.

Men's Health Panel – Provides a quick, affordable way for men to assess key areas for their overall health.  

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