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Can Testosterone Slow Aging?

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Updated July 25, 2007

Testosterone is a hormone that plays a large part in the development of male secondary sexual characteristics as well as helping to regulate bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass and strength. Testosterone also regulates sex drive (libido). Testosterone is produced by both men and women (though women produce much smaller amounts). Many so-called anti-aging doctors are prescribing testosterone and other anti-aging hormone supplements.

Aging and Testosterone

Testosterone production peaks in adolescence and early adulthood. After that, testosterone levels slowly decline. However, throughout life most men produce large quantities of testosterone.

What About Erectile Dysfunction?

Many age-related sexual problems in men are incorrectly blamed on testosterone deficiency. Erectile dysfunction, for example, is most often caused by problems with circulation (like high blood pressure) and not due to a decrease in testosterone.

Male Menopause, Andropause and Viropause – Are They Real?

The term male menopause (also called andropause or viropause) has emerged in recent years to describe the changes that men go through as they age. Most of the discussion centers on a decline in testosterone level. In short, there is little evidence that such a condition exists. The decline in male testosterone levels occurs slowly, over many years. Throughout their lives, most men remain within the “normal” range of testosterone production.

Can Testosterone Supplements Help?

Men whose bodies make little or no testosterone can be helped by testosterone supplements. There is little research on the effects of testosterone supplementation on otherwise healthy men who produce a normal amount of testosterone for their age. There are ongoing studies attempting to learn more about the risks and benefits of testosterone supplementation.

Risks of Testosterone Supplementation

There is concern among researchers and physicians that testosterone supplementation may increase the risk for prostate cancer. There is also concern that increased levels of testosterone may increase the growth of any existing cancer as well as thicken the blood through an increased production of red blood cells -- leading to an increase in stroke risk.

The Bottom Line

Testosterone supplementation is an appropriate medical treatment for men who produce little or no testosterone on their own. Other men report an increase in muscle mass and energy when taking testosterone -- but research has not proven those claims and the risks are far greater than the potential benefits. In short, avoid testosterone treatments for anti-aging benefits.

Sources:

National Institute on Aging. National Institutes of Health. Pills, Patches and Shots: Can Hormones Prevent Aging?

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