Testosterone, a hormone commonly linked to male sexual functions, does more than influence your biology. This essential hormone that also plays an important role in your behavior and mood regulation has also been linked to your mental health according to studies. As more and more studies are conducted concerning this male hormone, the results keep surprising us.
Before going into the details, let’s have a quick review of the functions of testosterone in the male body and why younger generations should be aware of this powerful hormone earlier and not later in life when abnormal levels are a common occurrence.
Primary Functions of Testosterone
Testosterone is no ordinary hormone. It’s a vital one that the body needs to produce while the fetus is still seven weeks old. From this period onwards, the male body continues to produce testosterone to support its development and functions.
In early childhood, particularly ages six to eight, testosterone is responsible for growth spurts in boys. During puberty, the functions of testosterone widen, making it responsible for voice deepening, bone strengthening, increasing muscle mass, and most of all in forming the genitals or making the penis bigger. This is also the time when sperm production begins, which peaks at age 17 or late teens and continues all throughout adult life.
With enough levels of testosterone, sex drive, erections, and reproductive system start to affect the male sexual characteristics.
Aside from the testosterone’s roles in male sexuality, testosterone also influences other functions such as the stimulation of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells, the regulation of mood and behavior as well as cholesterol metabolism.
However, normal levels should be maintained since too high or too little testosterone can cause some issues including chest hair growth, breast enlargement, stunted growth, and others.
The testicles produce most of the testosterone in the male body, roughly 95 percent of it while the other 5 percent is produced by the adrenal glands. When you’re younger you don’t have to worry about your testosterone because it’s well taken care of by your body as long as you keep yourself healthy.
Some of the factors that affect normal testosterone production include too much carbs, stress, alcohol, and meat and water, which may contain synthetic hormones that can cause hormonal imbalances.
A condition like hypogonadism, which is your body’s inability to produce enough testosterone, can also affect your levels. Additionally, a medical condition like obesity can lower your testosterone production since fat cells metabolize testosterone to estrogen.
Testosterone and Male Behavior
While testosterone plays a crucial role in men’s biological makeup, it also affects their behavior. Testosterone is one of the contributory factors for their aggressiveness, dominance, and independence. On the flip side, it also leads them to accidents, injuries, substance abuse, and violence.
Men with abnormally low levels of testosterone were found to have a higher incidence of depression. Instead of treating the depression as it is, testosterone treatment has been found to improve the condition. Experts also warned that doses should be monitored properly since higher doses are linked to aggressive or manic behavior.
At about 30 years old, some men’s testosterone starts to drop slightly and gradually by about 1 percent a year. By age 70, testosterone has gone down to 30 percent lower from the peak production. But some men’s levels can remain at a normal range at this stage given the right conditions.
Testosterone starts to get complex in older men because it can bind to other proteins in the blood. Only those that bind with albumin remain biologically active.
The mental decline in old age goes with declining testosterone. Aside from this, older men also suffer from muscle mass and bone density losses. They’re also at risk of low red blood cell count as well as a low sex drive.
Testosterone and Mental Functions
A German study found that testosterone influences men’s cognitive function. As people age, their learning ability, information processing, and memory start to weaken. Healthy elders may only suffer from memory lapses or slips but the unhealthy ones are at risk of dementia and other diseases associated with cognitive impairment.
Another study showed that testosterone injections improved the verbal memory of both men and women participants.
In recent decades, scientists are starting to see a link between cognition and testosterone. Numerous studies show that older men who have higher testosterone levels in midlife perform much better in cognitive tests compared to their counterparts with lower levels.
Because of these interesting results, others began to ask if testosterone therapy could serve well to older men with Alzheimer’s. Unluckily, some studies reveal that most testosterone therapy can only trigger apoptosis or cell death.
Doctors highly recommend that men who are testosterone deficient should receive treatment. About 5 million are in this category while only 5 percent are receiving treatment. Aside from aging, testosterone deficiency is caused by several other factors, including testicular failure, mumps, severe trauma, alcoholism, brain surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, medications, genetics, and chronic illnesses.
Testosterone therapy comes in various forms, but they all need a prescription. Some of them come with side effects, hence advice from a medical practitioner is of utmost importance. Long term testosterone therapy has also been linked with prostate issues, sleep apnea, acne, and liver problems.
Since adverse side effects have been linked to testosterone treatment, the best advice doctors give to increase testosterone is to find ways to increase levels through safer means. These include proper nutrition, which means eating food that boosts testosterone, exercise, mental activity, and regular medical care.
Testosterone boosting supplements can also help you maintain testosterone in healthy levels.