It is estimated that at least four to five million American men have low testosterone. Furthermore, low testosterone, also called hypogonadism, affects about one in 10 men between the ages of 40 and 60. Low testosterone may lead to decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, osteoporosis, reduced lean body mass, depressed mood and fatigue.
Testosterone levels in the blood may be measured by a simple blood test for total testosterone (all of the testosterone level in the blood) and free testosterone (the hormone actually available for use by the body). Additionally, the doctor may test for the sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), which indicates the protein that binds the testosterone.
Additional specialized tests may include the luteinizing hormone (LH), the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and an MRI of the brain. Low testosterone is common in men over the age of 50. In fact, 20% of men in this age group may have a low testosterone level.
If the doctor finds a slight decrease in this hormone, the patient may be advised to take a supplement, such as DHEA. This supplement helps the body create active testosterone. If the testosterone level is significantly decreased, the doctor may prescribe a testosterone replacement, which mimics the hormone already present in the body, and will reestablish a normal level of testosterone.
“Every man should discuss supplements appropriate for him with a doctor,” Dr. Shabsigh explains. “In general, a good program will include a broad-spectrum antioxidant and a prostate formula, as well as other important nutrients that support overall and sexual health. If you have mild diabetes,, anxiety, or depression, prescription medications aren’t always needed. As is the case with sexual dysfunction, there are excellent natural approaches that can help.” He cautions, however, to “be sure you get supplements from a reliable source, and keep in mind that the cheapest alternative isn’t necessarily the best one. Ingredient quality and manufacturing processes differ widely.”