Testosterone is a crucial androgenic hormone that defines overall male phenotype. Optimum testosterone levels regulates fertility, development, maintenance of the male reproductive system’s organs, and sexual function. Muscle strength, quality of bones and cognition are other important aspects governed by testosterone.
How does Modern Life-Style Affect Testosterone?
Urban lifestyles, burgeoning gig economy, extended work hours, online entertainment platforms beaming 24/7 have skewed circadian patterns of light & dark. Light is an important environmental factor that the biological clock takes cues from to stay in sync with circadian rhythm. Testosterone generation is pulsatile, highest amount generated early morning, and follows circadian rhythms. Lack of sleep/ sleep disruption is also deleterious to overall health and hormone cycles.
Disruption of these patterns disrupts cell differentiation of Leydig cells, size of testes during puberty, among other negative effects as per a recent study in animal models.
During reproductive maturation, the dynamic interaction among genome(genes/DNA that define an individual) epigenome (all the chemical compounds that directs the genome to act in a certain way), random and environmental factors contribute to acquiring the full endocrine capacity of the Leydig cells. In a study(using rats) the effect of constant light on Leydig cells’ endocrine ability during the period of reproductive maturation was analyzed. The results indicate that constant light slows Leydig cells’ maturation by reducing the endocrine and energy capacity of cells and delay in reproductive development.
Leydig cells in the testes play an important role in secreting testosterone with the luteinizing hormone regulating T production. The adrenal glands above the kidneys also produce a very small amount of testosterone. The entire process is regulated by the pituitary glands in the brain, overseen by the hypothalamus.
Testosterone level ranges from 300 to 1000 nanograms per deciliter(ng/dL). Fluctuations are normal depending on phase of life – Highest during puberty to a gradual decrease starting from year 30 onwards.
Lower levels of T below 200 needs is a cause for concern and needs to be investigated for health issues.
Most common testosterone-related problem is hypogonadism or low-T in men. It is defined by:
- Fatigue, low energy, brain fog
- Decreased sex drive/libido
- Failure to get or sustain erections for a satisfying intercourse
- Infertility – low sperm count, motility
- Loss of muscle mass, weak bones, hair loss
How is Testosterone levels in the Body Checked?
A small amount of blood is drawn from a vein for this test. This test measures the T-levels in the blood. Most of the testosterone in the blood is attached to proteins. The one that is not attached to a protein is called free testosterone. There are two main types of testosterone levels tests
- Total Testosterone – Measures free and bound T.
- Free Testosterone – Measures only unbound T. This test also gives more information about certain medical conditions
T-levels that are too low(low-T) or too high are concerns of health in both men and women.
Other names used: Testosterone - Serum, Total and Bioavailable.