Benefits & risks of testosterone supplementation

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Dr Merlin Thomas

Merlin Thomas is a physician and a scientist. His research laboratory is at the JDRF/ Danielle Alberti Memorial Centre for the study of Diabetes Complications at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne.
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Combating the andropause

Potential Benefits

  • Treat symptoms– improved energy, strength, mood, and feelings of well-being
  • Increased arousal, desire, frequency of sexual activity, frequency of orgasm and sexual satisfaction
  • Lower rate of bone loss and muscle strength that lead to an increased risk of fracture
  • Small reduced risk of diabetes, heart attacks and strokes
  • Small reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia
  • Small reduced risk of breast cancer in women

Potential Risks

  • Side-effects of testosterone supplementation include acne, increased in facial hair, weight gain (muscle, rather than fat), breast enlargement and changes in mood (including increased levels of aggression at high doses)
  • Some prostate cancers may be sensitive to testosterone, so men taking testosterone supplements should be repeatedly screened for prostate cancer
  • When used in appropriate doses, testosterone does not cause women to look and behave like men, though transgender women have used very high doses of the hormone for this purpose

Options to help combat the andropause

  • Be aware of your symptoms – don’t just assume it is just getting old and suffer in silence.
  • Take note – do you have a diminished libido, persistent unexplainable fatigue or a decreased sense of well-being?
  • Increase physical activity – this will help slow the declining testosterone levels by maintaining weight control, taking actions to help prevent the onset of diabetes and obesity:
    • Take up weight training 2 to 3 times per week – get a trainer or go to a class at your local gym
    • Develop your own stretching program – buy a book that shows you how
  • Get quality sleep – inadequate sleep is associated with reduced testosterone levels and makes the symptoms of low levels all the worse.
  • Manage stress – try yoga, meditation rhythmic breathing or other relaxation techniques.
  • Stop smoking – even second hand smoke will reduce your testosterone levels.
  • Make an appointment to see your doctor about testosterone if symptoms impact on your life:
    • For men, take a simple screening test for low testosterone levels
    • For women, consider switching to transdermal estrogens (patches) for HRT or ask about a trial of testosterone or prohormones like DHEA
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