On average, a man’ s body contains seven or eight times as much testosterone as a woman’s. But these levels are not constant over our lifetimes. Our testosterone levels peak at around 25. At about 30 years of age, a change happens. Our sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) starts going up, binding our total testosterone, making it too big to cross the cellular membrane. Therefore, if we simply check a man’s total testosterone level, it might look adequate, but the body can’ t use it. W e must check either free testosterone, or, ideally, bioavailable testosterone levels. Some smaller labs, however, may only have tests for free testosterone. The test result we’d like to see is a number in the upper-third of the normal range; this is optimal. However, half of healthy men between the ages of 50–70 will have a baseline testosterone level that’s below the lowest level seen in healthy men who are 20–40 years of age. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism 71:963-969.
Allow me to say this in a different way. The primary laboratory that I use in my practice is Quest, and the Quest Lab- oratory’ s normal range for total testosterone in men between the ages of 18 and 70 is 250–1100. This is both a very wide age range and a very wide normal range. Thus, as I have always said in my articles, I prefer to determine dosages clinically (titrate to my patients’ satis- faction). From 70 years of age and above, Quest’ s normal range is just 30–110. Can anyone out there believe this? Apparently, once a man turns 70, it is okay for him to suffer from osteoporosis, dementia, brain aging, heart aging (including increased myocardial infarctions and strokes), decreased intelligence, Alzheimer’ s disease, loss of drive and competitive edge, stiffness and pain in the muscles and joints, deteriorating connective tissue including drooping of the face and the rest of the body, a falling level of fitness, anemia, irritability, depression, mood changes, fatigue, erectile dysfunction, decreased desires and fantasies, etc.
Many doctors look at a 50-year-old’ s testosterone levels and although they may be in the normal range, most of them are at the lower end of normal, yet the doctors say that this is appropriate. However, if that 50-year old man were actually 20- years-old and showed the same doctor the lower end of normal range for a 20-year old, the doctor would become concerned and tell that patient that he is deficient. Why is it that the medical community seems to be uninterested in men and women beyond their reproductive years?
Women access the medical community much more frequently than men. When they are not feeling well, they are much more likely to get the help that they need. Men are taught by our society to be tough, “suck it up” and not complain. Women do complain about the effects of menopause: hot flashes, irritability and mood changes. And because they access the medical care community more often than men do, there are all types of hormones and replacements for women.
Andropause, or male menopause, is a gradual decline that takes years, even decades, whereas a woman’ s menopause is sudden with immediate dramatic effects. What is the cause of our Andropause? Decreased bioavailable testosterone.
It’ s important that we men remember where the highest concentration of testosterone receptors are found. Number one for testosterone receptors is the arteries in the heart. The testosterone undergoes a chemical process, which helps the arteries release nitrous oxide, and thus opens up the arteries.
The second highest concentration of testosterone receptors is the brain where again, nitrous oxide is released. The surface of the brain is covered with smaller and smaller arteries as we get further from the center of the brain, and as we get older, we lose brain tissue as the arteries on the perifery close up because they are really tiny and, therefore, we lose short- term memory function. An Alzheimer’ s patient can tell you what he said to his wife 60 years ago, but cannot recall what he had for breakfast that day.
The third highest concentration is in your bones. You need testosterone to have strong, thick bones and prevent osteoporosis.
The fourth highest receptor concentration is in muscle and connective tissue, which is necessary for fuller lips, tighter skin and more lean muscle mass (which
is also more metabolically active, thus creating anti-inflammatory and thus anti-aging benefits).
In fifth place are the fat cells. Fat cells have more testosterone receptors than we do below the belt. If we can remember, before puberty, we were one big blob. After puberty, however, we had a six-pack, as well as broadening of the shoulders, chest and arms. We also had less fat around our waist and thighs.
The sixth place for testosterone receptor concentration is below the waist in the penis, which releases nitrous oxide, which helps the length, girth and erectile function. One of the major things that testosterone helps with is the refractory period of intercourse. Most men tell me that they hardly ever had fantasies, or once they did have intercourse with their wives, it would be a long time before they were ready for another session. However, with testosterone replacement, they tell me that sexual frequency has increased dramatically and so has the level of satisfaction. I do not have the study to quote exactly. However, a study that I read at one time pertained to the question of frequency in respect to one’s age. For men (and women who release oxytocin, which is an anti-inflammatory hormone and an anti-aging hormone), one study found that men who engaged in intercourse with their wives at least twice a week looked 10 years younger and actually lived nearly 10 years longer than age-matched controls.
Relating this information to motorcycling in particular, remember that low testosterone is associated with aches and pains, fatigue, depression, reduced self- confidence, fearfulness, and irritability, none of which would improve the experience of riding. If riding has lost some of its appeal over the years and these symptoms are familiar, perhaps it would be time to discuss this subject with your doctor.
In my “Testosterone Part 2” article, I will delve into the specifics of these aspects of aging, and how restoring youthful testosterone levels can improve your health.