Skip to content

    Men's Health

    Font Size

    Keep Testosterone in Balance

    By Tony Rehagen
    WebMD Feature

    Testosterone is the male sex hormone. As men get older, their bodies produce less of it. Starting in middle age, it often drops below levels that doctors consider normal.

    Low testosterone -- also known as hypogonadism or low T -- can affect your overall health. But some doctors say it’s just a normal, harmless part of aging.

    Recommended Related to Men

    Going Bald: It’s All in Your Head

    Sitting in high school biology, listening to the teacher drone on about genetics, I snapped to attention when she used male pattern baldness as an example of a dominant trait. My heart started pounding with fear - with bald men on both sides of my mother's family as far as the eye could see, I was doomed to have a chrome dome. I remained anguished about the prospect of being bald for the next 20 years as my hairline retreated and my hair steadily thinned. Bald men seemed disfigured to me. I felt...

    Read the Going Bald: It’s All in Your Head article > >

    Here’s what you need to know to keep your concerns and your hormones in proper balance.

    How Low Is Too Low?

    Testosterone levels are measured through blood tests. Most doctors agree that a “normal” reading falls anywhere between 300 to 1,000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). About 40% of men over age 45 will have levels that come in below that range. But a low reading by itself isn’t enough to warrant alarm.

    In fact, it’ll likely have a lot to do with the time of day doctors test your blood. The best time for testing is between 7 and 10 a.m. “Different hormones have different patterns of secretion,” says Ronald Swerdloff, MD, chief of endocrinology at Harbor UCLA Medical Center. “Normal testosterone ranges are based on morning samples, when the average person is at a higher level. Afternoon tests may give a false impression of low levels.”

    Swerdloff says you should get multiple tests -- at least two over the course of a couple of weeks or months. You’ll want to make sure you have low T before you take any action.

    More Than Just a Number

    Even if your testosterone levels are below the recommended range, you still might not have to worry. Doctors say that a reading between 200 and 300 ng/dL is sort of a gray area.

    Levels that are just slightly low aren’t a cause for concern by themselves. But if you have other symptoms, you’ll want to see your doctor. “Everyone agrees that if you have a phenomenally low level, you’d benefit from treatment. But if it’s just slightly low, as is more common, you’d definitely want to have symptoms,” says Bradley Anawalt, MD, chief of medicine at the University of Washington.

    Those symptoms include:

    • Lower sex drive or desire
    • Lower quality and frequency of erections
    • Lower bone density
    • Reduced muscle mass and strength
    • Low energy
    • Fatigue
    • Depressed feelings

    Today on WebMD

    man coughing
    Men shouldn’t ignore.
    man swinging in hammock
    And how to get out it.
    shaving tools
    On your shaving skills.
    muscular man flexing
    Four facts that matter.
    Food Men 10 Foods Boost Male Health
    Thoughtful man sitting on bed
    Man taking blood pressure
    doctor holding syringe
    Condom Quiz
    man running
    older couple in bed