It’s no news flash that the baby boomer generation is aging, and where the boomer generation goes, so goes the advertising industry. The number of television ads during football games that tout medications for erectile dysfunction and supplements for “male hormone replacement” or “low T” nearly equals the number of beer commercials. They sound great: Smear a little of this cream here, pop that pill there, and you can be as ripped, ready and randy as you were in your 20s.
But is it true, is it safe, is it the only solution, and is it the right thing for you?
Testosterone as you age
Testosterone, “the male hormone,” reaches its peak in the body during adolescence and early adulthood and then usually declines by about 1 percent per year after age 30. Testosterone helps with bone density, fat distribution, muscle strength, red blood cell production, sex drive and sperm production. As men age and their testosterone levels gradually decrease, many find that their sexual desire and performance decreases, they experience more disturbances in sleep, their bodies change as fat increases and muscle mass and strength decrease, and their ability to concentrate wanes. Self-confidence can drop, and depression sometimes results. Hot flashes, loss of bone density (osteoporosis), fatigue, weight gain, increased risk for diabetes and strokes, anemia and memory loss are other common outcomes of low testosterone levels. Some men have low testosterone levels as a result of a condition called hypogonadism, for which doctors typically prescribe testosterone replacement therapy, so it’s important to be tested for this condition, especially if aging is not yet likely to be a factor.
If you find you’re unhappy with some of the normal signs of aging that can result in part from decreasing testosterone, you may want to consider lifestyle changes that can make you generally healthier. Sure, these aren’t as easy as an injection or a patch, but they don’t carry the risks of taking testosterone, and they can improve your overall health.
After you have a thorough check-up for other causes, a regular exercise program — especially strength training and cardio — can decrease your body fat, increase your muscle mass and strength, help stop bone loss, improve your sleep and self-confidence and ease depression. A healthful diet and stopping smoking can help do the same. Yes, these solutions require more effort than slapping on a patch, but that’s one of the reasons they increase self-confidence. Being tested for sleep apnea, which is not uncommon among older men who carry a few extra pounds, might reveal the source of fatigue.
Age is not a reversible condition. Unfortunately, our culture continues to be youth-oriented, which causes many of us to fight aging so hard that we fail to appreciate its gifts. And too often we look for easy solutions rather than considering that improving our diets and getting regular exercise can go a long way toward holding off some of aging’s less desirable symptoms.
If you’re married or in a long-term relationship, your partner may appreciate being in on the decision as well. For example, if your reaction to testosterone replacement therapy is an increased sex drive, your partner may have an opinion that you should take into consideration.