Testosterone’s Medical Uses
By Ross B. Macdonald
Recent research studies from major universities and health organizations show that low or high testosterone levels are detrimental to several aspects of men’s health. Testosterone is measured at two levels—bonded and free—the latter being the active form. Bonded testosterone makes up about 90 per cent of the total and is bonded to bones and muscle. Free testosterone flows in the blood and is very important for many health aspects in men and women.
Metabolic Syndrome is a combination of waist size, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar. It leads to diabetes, heart disease, and the inability to process fats and sugars. Men with low testosterone have an increasing prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, stress, and body fat (especially visceral belly fat). As total testosterone levels rise to the optimum level, (550ng/dl) or above, the chance for these diseases decreases. New research now shows that men in the lowest testosterone level are twice as likely to have cardiovascular disease (CVD) versus those at the optimum level, who over the five-year program had a 30 percent lower risk of CVD. Any level below 550ng/dl resulted in a significant increased risk. Only at 550ng/dl or higher was the 30 percent reduction for CVD seen and 24 percent for strokes.
The important consideration is hormone balance. As men grow older, they are more and more at risk for increases in an enzyme called aromatase. One of the main causes of this increase is belly fat. Obesity can cause estrogen levels to rise because belly fat produces aromatase, which coverts testosterone into estrogen. When testosterone and estrogen are in youthful balance, there are many protective effects. Research has shown there is an increase in mortality when estrogen levels are either too low or too high.
Measuring free testosterone is the most accurate way of assessing levels in men. The balance should be 15-20ng/dl free with estrogen less than 30ng/dl. An imbalance between these two hormones leads to diet-resistant belly fat, which is due to either too much estrogen or too little testosterone. In men this fat increases estrogen, resulting in memory loss, lack of motivation, depression, and low libido. Belly fat can also be linked to stress that releases hormones like cortisol, which signals the body to maintain its fat and weight, and also to low DHEA (precursor to these hormones).
Low testosterone, which may be linked to stress, can also lead to belly fat in both men and women. This type of fat resists diet, is very difficult to remove, and can increase estrogen levels. This jump in estrogen levels helps to develop platelet aggregation, coagulation, and inflammation in arteries that may cause a heart attack.
High HDL levels (good cholesterol) protect against heart attacks by helping to remove plaque from arteries. Testosterone enables HDL to remove this built up of cholesterol from arterial walls and cycles it back to the liver for disposal. This is known as Reserve Cholesterol Transport (RCT). Adequate levels of testosterone are required for optimal support of this process; low levels may cause a drop in HDL, increasing the chance of CVD.
A major research study revealed that free testosterone levels below 17pg/dl resulted in a 3.3-fold greater risk in developing arterial disease. In perspective, aging men with levels below 17pg/dl often have HDL levels below 40-50 mg/dl.
Chronic heart failure (CHF) is characterized by exercise intolerance, shortness of breath, and muscle wasting. Low testosterone is one of the main culprits. Testosterone increases anabolic function, improves arterial dilation, and is a known anti-inflammatory agent.
Ross Macdonald, BS, MS, CPT has written over 150 articles for Atención about exercise, health, and vitamins/supplements since 1997. His specialization is vitamins and supplements for a healthy body. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.