Researchers are unlocking the mysteries of how low testosterone has an impact on men’s overall health. Along the way, they are uncovering connections between low testosterone and other health conditions. Diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity have all been linked to testosterone deficiency. Low testosterone isn’t known to cause these health problems, and replacing testosterone isn’t the cure. Still, the associations between low testosterone and other medical conditions are interesting and worth a look.
Does Low Testosterone Indicate Poor Health?
In recent years, researchers have noticed general links between low testosterone and other medical conditions. One study showed that in 2100 men over age 45, the odds of having low testosterone were:
- 2.4 times higher for obese men
- 2.1 times higher for men with diabetes
- 1.8 times higher for men with high blood pressure
Experts don’t suggest that low testosterone causes these conditions. In fact, it might be the other way around. That is, men with medical problems or who are in poor general health might then develop low testosterone. Research into the relationship between low testosterone and several other health conditions is ongoing.
Diabetes and Low Testosterone
A link between diabetes and low testosterone is well established. Men with diabetes are more likely to have low testosterone, and men with low testosterone are more likely to later develop diabetes. Testosterone helps the body’s tissues take up more blood sugar in response to insulin. Men with low testosterone more often have insulin resistance: they need to produce more insulin to keep blood sugar normal.
As many as half of men with diabetes have low testosterone when randomly tested. Scientists aren’t sure whether diabetes causes low testosterone or the other way around.
Low testosterone can also impact the blood flow to your penis which can lead a reduction in erections.
Obesity and Low Testosterone Impact
Obesity and low testosterone are tightly linked. Obese men are more likely to have low testosterone. Men with very low testosterone are also more likely to become obese. Fat cells metabolise testosterone to oestrogen, lowering testosterone levels. Also, obesity reduces levels of sex hormone-binding globulin, a protein that carries testosterone in the blood. Less SHBG means less free testosterone. Losing weight through exercise can increase testosterone levels.
Testosterone and Heart Disease
Testosterone has mixed effects on the arteries. Many experts believe testosterone contributes to the higher rates of heart disease and high blood pressure that tend to affect men at younger ages. By this reasoning, high testosterone might be bad for the heart.
But testosterone deficiency is connected to insulin resistance, obesity, and diabetes. Each of these problems increases cardiovascular risk. Men with diabetes and low testosterone also have higher rates of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.