While testosterone is stereotypically associated with virility, it actually plays many other essential roles in the body, especially with the heart.
Beginning around age 30, a man’s testosterone levels start to decline, and continue to do so as time goes on—unless you proactively address your lifestyle. Environmental factors, including pesticides, plastics, and other pollutants, have resulted in a significant decrease in the average testosterone levels for men, so most men will have, at least, a relative deficiency of testosterone.
Why is Testosterone so Important?
Produced by the adrenal glands, testes and ovaries, it is a hormone vital to both sexes. It contributes to muscle mass, strength, endurance, decreased fat, increased exercise tolerance, enhancement of well- being, and sex drive. In males, testosterone protects against cardiovascular disease, hypertension and arthritis. It leads to improved lean muscle mass, increased bone density, decreases in cholesterol, improved skin tone, improved healing capacity, and increased libido and sexual performance. It prolongs the quality of life by decreasing age-related diseases—as does estrogen in females. Testosterone is also extremely important in females for body fat reduction, sense of well-being, libido, endurance and energy.
When an individual has over activity of aromatase (the enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen), there will be an abnormal testosterone to estrogen ratio and symptoms of low androgens will appear, like: decreased sex drive, depression, erectile dysfunction and/or problems urinating, lack of concentration and memory, weight gain and/or breast enlargement, sweating attacks, high blood sugar and insulin, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Major laboratories have, unfortunately, reduced the “normal” range of free testosterone to maintain the 95 percentile as normal, the result being that many abnormally low levels will now be considered normal.
The Impact of Testosterone on Your Heart
There have been done a number of studies that clearly show the association of low testosterone levels in men with cardiovascular disease, as well as with all-cause mortality.
Despite regional variations in the prevalence of coronary artery disease, men are consistently more at risk of developing and dying from cardiovascular disease than women, and the gender-specific effects of sex hormones are implicated in this inequality. Epidemiological studies show an inverse relationship between testosterone levels and markers of atherosclerosis, which suggests that it may be a testosterone deficient state, rather than male sex, which is associated with cardiovascular disease. Testosterone has also been shown to improve myocardial ischemia in men with angina pectoris. Consequently, increasing evidence suggests that the process of atherosclerosis is beneficially modulated by testosterone.
Optimal testosterone levels in men have been shown to decrease the risk of coronary artery disease by 60%, as shown by a study (Low Levels of Endogenous Androgens Increase the Risk of Atherosclerosis in Elderly Men: The Rotterdam Study). This study investigated the association of levels of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) and total and bioavailable testosterone with aortic atherosclerosis among 1,032 nonsmoking men and women aged 55 yr and over.
How to Maintain Healthy Testosterone Levels?
- Keep a healthy weight: Belly fat and obesity are testosterone killers. Not only will obesity affect testosterone levels, but low levels of testosterone will also hinder your ability to lose weight, creating a vicious cycle. Start with a healthy diet for your metabolism and add the right exercise to help keep weight off.
- Get sufficient sleep: Sleep deprivation will always affect your hormonal levels, including your testosterone. You should aim for a bedtime no later than 10:00 – 11:00 PM and for 8 hours of sleep.
- Avoid toxins that harm the testicles: Phthalates and parabens in personal care products and BPA in plastics are disrupting the production and function of multiple hormones including testosterone. Glyphosate (GMO food) is also a testosterone-disrupting chemical found virtually everywhere in regions where GM agriculture predominates. The best way to avoid exposure is to eat 100% organically certified foods and to use non-toxic personal care products.
- Avoid Stress: Your adrenal hormones, thyroid hormones and sex hormones are all interconnected. When you are under high stress, the production of testosterone is decreased in favor of cortisol. Stress also increases the production of aromatase and 5-alpha-reductase, two enzymes that break down testosterone, leading to deficiency.
- Watch for key nutrients: Vitamins A, E, D and minerals zinc, magnesium and selenium are very important for androgen production and testicular function. The male prostate happens to have one of the highest concentrations of zinc of any organ within the body, indicating how important it is to the male reproductive system. Unfortunately, a lot of the modern food is missing these important micronutrients. Work with your health practitioner to find the best foods for you that are rich in these nutrients and/or add necessary supplements.
For even more information on the importance of testosterone, watch this video from Dr. Wayne Wightman.
Hormones Overview by Holtorf Medical Group
Testosterone: a vascular hormone in health and disease by Kelly, DM & Jones, TH
Testosterone and coronary artery disease by Nettleship JE, Jones RD, Channer KS, & Jones TH