There is a lot of talk these days about medications to help with low testosterone but there are also lifestyle changes you can make to help increase your testosterone levels.
Understanding Low T
Testosterone is a hormone - it helps put hair on a man’s chest, build muscle, deepens the voice, increases the size of the penis and testes and drives libido. Men’s testosterone levels naturally decrease as they get older. From the age of 30 on, men lose about 1 percent of testosterone per year. For most men, this isn’t a problem. They still continue to live fulfilling lives. But for some men, testosterone levels dip below the “average” levels (anywhere from 300 to 1,000 nanograms per deciliter) and they experience symptoms of low testosterone, or low T as it is often called, such as:
- Low sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Increase in body fat and decrease in muscle mass
- Changes in sleep patterns
Low testosterone isn’t just about your sex life. It can be dangerous to your health. One study found that men with low T had a 33 percent greater chance of death over the next 18 years than men who had normal testosterone levels.
Low testosterone isn’t as common as you think. While television commercials and magazine ads lead people to believe that many men have low T and can benefit from medication, the Endocrine Society, in a study released in 2007, found that only 5.6 percent of men met the clinical diagnostic criteria for low testosterone, although that number increases with age and by the age of 70, almost 20 percent of men had low testosterone. For these men, treatment is important.
Lifestyle Changes to Increase Testosterone Levels
Even if you don’t meet the diagnostic criteria for treatment, there are lifestyle changes you can make that may increase your testosterone levels. The following are four ways to get you started.
Lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight and underweight can affect testosterone levels. If you are overweight, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about a healthy eating plan to help you lose weight, which could help raise your testosterone levels. If you are underweight, bringing your weight up to a healthy level can also help increase your testosterone.
Exercise every day. If you get very little exercise, your body doesn’t need as much testosterone, so it slows down the production of the hormone. When you are physically active, your body produces testosterone to help build your muscles and bones. Getting exercise each day might boost your testosterone levels. If you have current health problems or are out of shape, talk to your doctor or work with a trainer to ease into an exercise program.
Get enough sleep. Your body produces testosterone while you are asleep. Studies have shown a correlation between the lack of sleep and lower testosterone levels. You should be aiming toward seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
Reduce or manage stress. When you are under stress, your body produces the hormone cortisol, which means it isn’t producing testosterone. Take steps to control the overall stress in your life by incorporating activities you enjoy into every day and add meditation to your daily routine. If you live a high-stress life, reevaluate your priorities and decide where you can make changes to reduce the stress levels.
If you are experiencing symptoms of low T, no matter what your age, you should talk to your doctor. Ask about all your treatment options and what lifestyle changes make the most sense in your life.
For more information on low T:
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.