Every man wants to feel as manly as possible. And what makes a man feel more masculine? Testosterone. So it's no surprise that many men become concerned when they feel like their testosterone levels are dropping. Here's how to know if you're in the right range for your age.
Average Testosterone Levels in Men
Normal testosterone levels in men are generally highest from ages 14 to 20. Testosterone levels drop off slightly starting in the 20s, though in many men, changes aren't that noticeable until after 40. Here are average testosterone levels in healthy men by decade. Measurements are given in nanograms (ng) per deciliter (dl) of blood:
- Age 20 to 29: 681 ng/dl
- Age 30 to 39: 609 ng/dl
- Age 40 to 49: 572 ng/dl
- Age 50 to 59: 548 ng/dl
A noticeable drop-off in testosterone levels usually doesn't occur until after age 40.
The "normal" range for testosterone levels for all men is from about 300 ng/dl to about 1,100 ng/dl. Doctors aren't usually concerned about a man's overall health until testosterone levels drop to 200 ng/dl or less. When testosterone levels are this low, there is an increase in the risk of bone fractures due to loss of bone density.
When and Why Do Testosterone Levels Drop?
Testosterone levels start a slow, gradual decline once a man is in his 20s, but many men don't experience symptoms of low testosterone until much later in life, in the 40s and 50s, or sometimes later. Testosterone levels can drop for numerous reasons other than age, including:
- Injury to testicles
- Hormonal disorders
- Testicular cancer (or treatment for testicular cancer)
- HIV / AIDS
- Type 2 diabetes
- Liver or kidney disease
There are also medications and genetic disorders that can lower a man's testosterone levels. A gradual decline in testosterone is natural for men, but this decline does not always cause symptoms..
What Happens When Testosterone Levels Drop?
Perhaps the most dreaded effect of low testosterone in men is loss of sexual function. However, low levels of testosterone have implications in many other aspects of health and wellness, too. Low testosterone can result in a drop in bone density, leading to osteoporosis and increased risk of bone fractures. Lower testosterone levels are also associated with irritability, depression, and loss of concentration. Low testosterone can result in increases in body fat levels. In men, excess fat is usually carried in the midsection, and that excess fat increases the risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Though testosterone levels naturally decline with age, there usually aren't health implications unless levels are below 300 ng/dl.
How to Get Testosterone Levels Tested
If you are concerned about low testosterone levels and are otherwise healthy, start by talking to your family doctor. He or she will most likely refer you to a laboratory to have blood drawn from your arm. If your testosterone levels are low, but within the normal range for your age, your family doctor may be able to offer you options for safely increasing testosterone levels. If your levels are abnormally low, you will likely be referred to an endocrinologist, who will try to determine exactly why your testosterone levels have dropped.
Some health conditions and medications can alter your blood testosterone levels, and these affect test results. If you are taking corticosteroids, digoxin, or medications for an overactive or underactive thyroid, your testosterone levels may be affected. The same is true if you're taking medications for prostate cancer or seizures. It's important to let your doctor know what medications you're taking before having your testosterone levels evaluated.
Options for Raising Testosterone Levels
- Testosterone injections: In young men with low testosterone who are having fertility problems, testosterone injections are often the best option for raising testosterone levels.
- Gel, skin patch or pellets: For men without fertility issues, testosterone can be delivered through a gel or a skin patch. Implantable testosterone pellets are a new way of delivering testosterone steadily over the course of several months.
- Lifestyle changes: Regular physical exercise can increase your testosterone levels by improving bone density and muscle tone, and reducing body fat, which causes existing testosterone to be broken down faster. A healthy diet and good sleep habits are other lifestyle changes that can affect testosterone levels.
- Supplements: Supplements like DHEA and various herbs, like tribulus terrestris (puncture vine), are available for giving men's bodies the necessary amino acids and other building blocks for increasing testosterone production.
Men have numerous options for raising testosterone levels, including lifestyle changes, dietary supplements, and testosterone replacement.
Men who are experiencing weight gain, lethargy, lack of focus, and diminished sex drive may be experiencing the effects of low testosterone levels. Fortunately, it's easy to have testosterone levels evaluated, and there are many treatment options available for getting testosterone levels back into the healthy range.