What makes a man? That’s a small question with huge possibilities. Depending on how you look at it, the answer could include personality traits, life events, physical characteristics or biological features. My response, in this instance, will focus on the last of the list. Biologically speaking, a man, in order to be a man, needs testosterone. It is his most important sex hormone, responsible for the development of body and facial hair, muscle growth and strength, and a deep voice. It influences the production of sperm and promotes sexual function and sex drive. And according to a recent study, one in four men has low levels.
Researchers tested 1,500 men between the ages of 30 and 79, enrolled in the Boston Area Community Health Survey. 25 percent of them had lower than normal levels of testosterone. But, that’s not necessarily a shocking discovery, nor is it all that upsetting. After a man turns 30, his testosterone level begins to decline, naturally. He loses approximately one percent every year. So at a certain age, the testosterone level has a good chance of dropping below normal. It only becomes a problem if the man develops symptoms such as erectile dysfunction, decreased sex drive and osteoporosis. Those occurrences in conjunction with sleep disturbance, depression/irritability, lethargy or diminished physical performance can be a sign of symptomatic androgen deficiency. And according to the Boston study, less than six percent of the men with low testosterone had androgen deficiency, so that’s a good sign. That means that while your testosterone levels may decrease, everything that goes along with them, like your sex drive, won’t necessarily.
However if you are concerned, there are ways to keep your testosterone levels up. The first and most obvious is hormone treatment. This is only advised for men who actually have symptomatic androgen deficiency or men who are at a high risk for it. Men with no symptoms should not take testosterone supplements. But, there are some little things they, and you, can do to lessen the gradual decline :
1. Keep your waistline trim – studies have found that a four-point increase in your Body Mass Index can equal a ten-year, testosterone-decline acceleration.
2. Pump some iron – yes, the muscular, macho men really are macho. Men who lift weights regularly lift their testosterone levels, too.
3. Eat fat – apparently, the men who consume the most fat have the most testosterone. Before you get overly excited, this does not warrant a return of trans/saturated fats. Stick with monounsaturated, please.
4. Limit liquor – drinking moderate to heavy amounts of alcohol on a regular basis isn’t going to do anything but bulge your belly and deplete your testosterone.
5. De-stress – excessive physical and mental stress is connected to low levels, so stay calm and don’t overdo it at the gym.
6. Talk to your doctor – while talking won’t increase testosterone, being aware of your levels and any symptoms that may occur can help you get a hold on your body before symptomatic androgen deficiency develops. Not a bad idea, if you want to stay healthy.
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