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Testosterone is more than a “male sex hormone”. It is an important contributor to the robust metabolic functioning of multiple bodily systems. The abuse of anabolic steroids by athletes over the years has been one of the major detractors from the investigation and treatment of clinical states that could be caused by or related to male hypogonadism. The unwarranted fear that testosterone therapy would induce prostate cancer has also deterred physicians form pursuing more aggressively the possibility of hypogonadism in symptomatic male patients. In addition to these two mythologies, many physicians believe that testosterone is bad for the male heart. The classical anabolic agents, 17-alkylated steroids, are, indeed, potentially harmful to the liver, to insulin action to lipid metabolism. These substances, however, are not testosterone, which has none of these adverse effects. The current evidence, in fact, strongly suggests that testosterone may be cardioprotective. There is virtually no evidence to implicate testosterone as a cause of prostate cancer. It may exacerbate an existing prostate cancer, although the evidence is flimsy, but it does not likely cause the cancer in the first place. Testosterone has stimulatory effects on bones, muscles, erythropoietin, libido, mood and cognition centres in the brain, penile erection. It is reduced in metabolic syndrome and diabetes and therapy with testosterone in these conditions may provide amelioration by lowering LDL cholesterol, blood sugar, glycated hemoglobin and insulin resistance. The best measure is bio-available testosterone which is the fraction of testosterone not bound to sex hormone binding globulin. Several forms of testosterone administration are available making compliance much less of an issue with testosterone replacement therapy.
The amount of testosterone synthesized is regulated by the hypothalamic–pituitary–testicular axis (see figure to the right). When testosterone levels are low, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is released by the hypothalamus, which in turn stimulates the pituitary gland to release FSH and LH. These latter two hormones stimulate the testis to synthesize testosterone. Finally, increasing levels of testosterone through a negative feedback loop act on the hypothalamus and pituitary to inhibit the release of GnRH and FSH/LH, respectively.
The most common "out of balance" testosterone levels are found to be on the low side of normal; this occurs because a male's highest testosterone level usually peaks at about age 20, and then it decreases slowly with age. It has been suggested that a 1% decrease in testosterone level per year is not unusual for middle-aged (30 to 50 years old) and older males. While this decrease may not be noticeable in some men, others may experience significant changes starting in their middle-aged years or more commonly at age 60 and above. This drop in testosterone levels is sometimes termed hypogonadism, "male menopause" or andropause.
Smoking doesn’t promote maintaining male hormone levels healthy. The study has shown that smoking deprives the body from zinc. Zinc deficiency is dangerous for men because it is fraught with testosterone deficiency. The matter is that zinc is a kind of structural material for building the testosterone molecules. So, smoking combined with unhealthy diet strikes a blow against normal testosterone production.
Testosterone levels generally peak during adolescence and early adulthood. As you get older, your testosterone level gradually declines — typically about 1 percent a year after age 30 or 40. It is important to determine in older men if a low testosterone level is simply due to the decline of normal aging or if it is due to a disease (hypogonadism).