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How Is Low Testosterone Linked to Early Death?

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When you think about testosterone, the first thoughts that come to mind are often related to performance – muscle mass, strength, endurance and athleticism for example. You are also familiar with the fact that our male hormones control masculinity and sex drive too.

But more and more research is being provided on the link between T levels, long-term health risk.

In this article we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the relationship between your hormones and chronic illness – and why low testosterone might cause you an early death.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What is testosterone?
  • How is it related to long-term illness?
  • The relationship between  testosterone and early death

What is Testosterone?

Testosterone (T) is a steroid hormone that is naturally produced by the Leydig cells of the testes in men, and in small amounts from the ovaries and adrenal glands in women.

It has two main actions. Firstly it regulates anabolic characteristics that affect masculinity such as strength, how deep your voice is and hair growth. Secondly it controls muscle mass and protein metabolism through androgenic processes.

This important messenger forms one of five types of steroid hormones that regulate a huge number of autonomic functions in the body. Other steroid hormones include estrogens and  glucocorticoids. Vitamin D and bile acids also have steroidal properties.

For a man, levels between 300-1000 ng.dL would be classed as healthy, whereas levels below 300 result in a clinical diagnosis of hypogonadism – low T.

The consequences to performance and appearance include a loss of muscle mass and strength, increase in belly fat and a loss of virility and libido. But there are also a number of illnesses associated with hypogonadism too.



Key Point: Testosterone is responsible for maintaining male health and regulating a number of masculine traits.


The Testosterone and Long-term Health Risk

After around the age of 30, men find that their testosterone production levels fall by about 1% per year. By 60 years old, a large percentage have clinically low androgen levels, and by 80 years old around 50% of men are clinically diagnosed low T.

Worryingly though, the age at which hypogonadism is being diagnosed is starting to get lower and lower.

Low T can have a real impact on your health, and a number of long-term illnesses are directly associated with reduced circulating androgens.

According to one research paper- a large systematic review of 53 relevant scientific studies – hypogonadism is a predictor for the development of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and peripheral artery disease. [1].

Similarly, a study in the Journal of Andrology [2] looked at what they called ‘the dark side’ of low T. The researchers found that hypogonadism was very closely linked to metabolic disease – a cluster of cardiovascular risk factors that include high cholesterol and diabetes. They stated quite clearly that low testosterone was implicated in development of these diseases.

As well as metabolic diseases, testosterone deficiency has also been linked to osteoporosis and low bone mineral density. Studies show that male hormone levels play a ‘pleomorphic role‘ in maintaining bone density [3] – it basically maintains its structure and strength.

Lastly, there are also links between insufficient serum T and disorders of the nervous system. Studies have found that hypogonadal men are at a higher risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as depression, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s as levels of the hormone decrease [4].

It is thought that testosterone improves the ability of motor neurons to regenerate which is an important aspect of cognitive health. 



Key Point: Low testosterone is strongly linked to the development of a range of long-term illnesses.


Testosterone and All Cause Mortality Links

In 2016, the American Heart Association [5] released an update of their statistics for death rates related to heart disease.

They suggested that cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of death, accounting for more than 17 million deaths per year. This represents around 30% of all deaths worldwide. It is expected that this may rise to 23.6 million by 2030.

The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism [6] found that in their population-based study of over 790 men, those whose testosterone was below 241 ng.dL were 40% more likely to die than those with higher levels. 

All cause mortality is just another name for early death. It specifically refers to all deaths from any cause within a population – it is the term you’ll find in most scientific studies.

Reduced serum testosterone was seen to be a predictor of all cause mortality in another study from the same journal, published one year later [7]. In this study, all-cause mortality was nearly double that for those who were hypogonadal.


Summary – T Levels and Early Death

Testosterone s the primary male hormone. It is responsible for development of muscle mass and strength, physical performance and virility.

It is also important in protecting you from risk factors of a number of metabolic, cardiovascular and other degenerative diseases. Clinically low T levels are strongly associated with a number of illnesses relating to these diseases.

There is also a strong correlation between low testosterone and early death, with all cause mortality research showing that hypogonadal men are much more likely to die prematurely.

It is important that you optimize your testosterone levels in order to improve your health as much as s possible.


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References

  1. Zarotsky, V et al. Systematic literature review of the risk factors, comorbidities, and consequences of hypogonadism in men. Andrology. 2014; 2(6): 819-34
  2. AHA. Heart disease and stroke statistics – 2016 update. Circulation. December 13, 2016; 
  3. Traish, Am et al. The Dark Side of Testosterone Deficiency: I. Metabolic Syndrome and Erectile Dysfunction. J Androl. 2009; 30(1): 10-22
  4. Bialek, M et al. Neuroprotective role of testosterone in the nervous system. Pol J Pharmacol. 2004; 56(5): 509-18
  5. Gaffney, CD et al. Osteoporosis and Low Bone Mineral Density in Men with Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome. Sex Med Rev. 2015; 3(4): 298-315
  6. Laughlin, GA et al. Low serum testosterone and mortality in older men. J Clin Endoc Metab. 2008; 93(1): 68-75
  7. Tivesten,A et al. Low serum testosterone and estradiol predict mortality in elderly men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009; 94(7): 2482-8

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