This hormone is important for men and women as they age. Find out when to talk to your doctor about checking your levels.
By Emcara Health Editors
Popular culture gets a lot of things wrong about testosterone. The biggest myth: that only men need it.
Men do need more testosterone than women. The hormone is linked to typical male traits such as muscle strength and even physical assertiveness. On the other hand, women need testosterone to ensure their ovaries function well and their bones remain strong.
Let’s take a closer look at what testosterone does and how to make sure your levels are in the right range. If you’re concerned, talk to your Emcara Health care team or your primary care physician. They can test your levels using a simple blood test.
Hormones help the body send messages using chemicals in the blood. Some hormones, like testosterone, help you grow and get stronger.
In women, the ovaries and adrenal gland make testosterone. It helps control things like bone strength, sexual desire, and how the ovaries work, says Harvard Health.
For women, the amount of testosterone starts to go down after they turn 30, says the Cleveland Clinic. This happens because the ovaries and adrenal glands make less of it. When women go through menopause, their testosterone levels might become only half of what they were before. This is a regular change and usually not something to worry about for most women.
In men, testosterone is highest when they’re young adults. It then starts to go down by about 1 percent every year after they’re 30. But only 10 to 25 percent of older men have lower-than-normal testosterone levels, says the Mayo Clinic. This means most men don’t have to worry about their testosterone dropping as they get older.
Usually, men don’t have problems from having too much testosterone. However, in women, having a lot can lead to polycystic ovary syndrome, a common hormonal condition that causes cysts to grow on the ovaries. This slows or stops the menstruation cycle. Around 6 to 10 out of every 100 women before menopause have this syndrome, says Harvard Health.
For most people, the way the body’s testosterone goes down as they get older doesn’t cause health issues. But in some cases, the drop in testosterone can be bigger. This can cause a condition called hypogonadism.
When men have hypogonadism, they might have signs like less interest in sex, feeling tired, and being sad, says the Mayo Clinic. If it’s not treated, they could lose muscle, grow breast tissue (called gynecomastia), and have trouble with erections.
Women with low testosterone might notice weaker muscles, feeling tired, or being sad and worried. Other symptoms may include trouble sleeping, not wanting to have sex as much, hair getting thinner, periods not being regular, and more, says the Cleveland Clinic.
A quick blood test can tell if your testosterone levels are too low or high. Normal levels for men are 300 to 1,000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) while women typically have testosterone levels of 15 to 70 ng/dL, says Mount Sinai.
If you’re worried about any of the symptoms above, talk to your Emcara Health care team about getting your testosterone levels checked.
The treatment for low testosterone depends on why it’s happening.
For some people, boosting testosterone levels can be simple, like stopping certain medicines such as antidepressants or pain relievers. Eating healthier and staying active can also make a difference, says the Urology Care Foundation. Conditions like type 2 diabetes can also make testosterone low. Your care team will look at all possibilities before deciding what’s best to do next.
Other people might feel better by changing how they live. This means making sure to sleep 7 to 9 hours every night, staying at a healthy weight, not drinking too much, and giving up smoking.
If your testosterone is low, you might choose testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). This means getting treated with patches, pills, gels on the skin, nose gels, shots, or small pellets put under the skin. But be aware, TRT could lead to effects like irritated skin, pimples, bigger or tender breasts, swollen ankles, or sleep apnea, says the Cleveland Clinic.
Men who use TRT for a long time might have a bigger chance of getting heart problems like heart attacks and strokes, warns Harvard Health. It’s a good idea to chat with your care team about the benefits and side effects of TRT.
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