Testosterone levels in men often diminish with age, leading to a decrease in muscle mass and strength that can leave men frail and less mobile. Other side effects of low testosterone levels, or “low T” as the condition is called by drug marketers, can include diminished energy and sex drive. To restore their overall vitality, aging men and others just seeking a hormonal boost for recreational purposes are turning to synthetic testosterone replacement drugs in record numbers. Abbott Laboratories, which produces the topical hormone drug AndroGel, and Auxilium Pharmaceuticals, the maker of a similar drug called Testim, are all too happy to meet the meet the soaring demand for their drugs.
But are topical prescription drugs or any other form of synthetic testosterone the smartest way to boost hormone levels in aging men? According to most objective studies and physicians, the answer is no.
A Boston University Medical School study published in the New England Journal of Medicine warns that only 2 percent of men over 40 years old should be receiving any form of testosterone boost at all. A wide body of clinical research links unnaturally elevated levels of the hormone to an increased risk of blood clots, liver damage, high blood pressure, heart attacks, and prostate cancer in older men.
One study of more than 200 men found that “Cardiovascular problems cropped up in men at all dose levels, but they seemed to be more common among those who got higher doses.” Overall, researchers found these risks to be four times greater than in men receiving placebo, and the federally funded study was halted.
Fortunately, most aging men who wish to increase their testosterone levels can do so safely and naturally by lowering their body mass index (BMI) through diet and exercise; for instance, every 12 pounds shed by a man of average height leads to a two-point drop in BMI and a corresponding two-point gain in testosterone.
According to Doctor Mehmet Oz, reducing the amount alcohol one drinks also has a significant effect on testosterone levels. Men who drink daily and moderately lower their testosterone levels by as much as seven percent.
Meditation, simple relaxation, mindfulness exercise, and aerobic activities reduce stress significantly because, as Doctor Oz explains, “Stress increases fat deposits that turn testosterone into estrogen (really!).” Finally, deep REM sleep boosts testosterone production, so getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night is critical to maintaining healthy testosterone levels.