You’re probably aware of a few conditions that contribute to low testosterone levels. The usual suspects include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and addictions to certain substances. If you don’t suffer from one of those common culprits, you might assume you’re not at risk.
Not so fast: As researchers trace the causes of low testosterone back to a menagerie of discrete sources, it starts to seem like there’s a threat to a man’s hormonal balance hiding around every corner.
Low-T can make a man miserable.
Here are some of the most surprising (and dismaying) things that have been associated with low testosterone levels:
1. Certain Cholesterol-Lowering Medications
High cholesterol can totally mess with testosterone levels. We know this. However, if you’ve got extremely low cholesterol, you might see a similar effect.
“Cholesterol is part of what builds testosterone,” Neil Paulvin, OD, tells FashionBeans. Paulvin specializes in hormone replacement and sports medicine. “If it is too low, around 140, you can’t build enough testosterone.”
In a 2013 scientific article, researchers found that statins (medications that reduce fat levels, including cholesterol levels) produce “small, but statistically significant” decreases in testosterone levels. However, the authors noted that the statistics aren’t especially helpful on a case-by-case basis, since doctors need to treat each patient individually.”We need to acknowledge this shortcoming if we are going to learn more about benefits and risks of drugs and really understand whether side effects … truly matter,” the authors wrote.In other words, don’t stop taking your cholesterol medications simply because you’re worried about your T-levels—and don’t try to boost your cholesterol levels in an effort to build your testosterone.
2. Being in a Happy Relationship
When it comes to low testosterone, it seems you just can’t win for losing. Lots of men worry about their hormone levels because they want to have happy, fulfilling romantic relationships, and low-T can get in the way of physical intimacy.
Maybe this can help explain the arcane process by which “Netflix and chill” slowly becomes actually watching TV and chilling out.A 2003 study from the journal Hormones and Behavior asked 122 men to describe their romantic relationships. Then the researchers collected saliva samples that were used to test participants’ testosterone levels.The men who reported being in “committed romantic relationships” had testosterone levels that were, on average, 21 percent (!) lower than those of their swinging bachelor counterparts.Maybe this can help explain the arcane process by which “Netflix and chill” slowly becomes actually watching TV and chilling out.
3. Getting Old
Some drop in testosterone is unavoidable; it’s just part of the adventure called aging.
4. Struggling With Obesity
Every day, health reporters introduce us to a truckload of horrors associated with obesity. Here’s your daily dose.
A 2010 study found that a full 40 percent of obese, nondiabetic participants—all male, aged 45 or older—had low testosterone. Throw diabetes into the mix and that figure leaps to 50 percent.
5. Joining the Army
If a spaceship full of benevolent aliens landed on your lawn and hollered, “Quick! Where can we find the highest concentration of testosterone around here? We need to extract it in a harmless, noninvasive way or else our whole planet will explode,” you might point them to the nearest military training camp.
All those sweating, screaming, straining young recruits are bound to be packed to the brim with testosterone, right? Well…somehow, no.
7. Burning the Midnight Oil
Who has time to sleep anymore? Not people with low testosterone, that’s for sure.
A lack of sleep can affect your testosterone level.
A study out of the University of Chicago found that young men who averaged about five hours of sleep per night reduced their testosterone levels by 10 to 15 percent. And those guys were 24 years old and fit.
7. Health Food
Flaxseeds are really good for you. They’re full of omega-3 fatty acids and every type of fiber you could want moving through you. They also have an insanely high concentration of chemicals called lignans.
For the most part, lignans have a great reputation. Most notably, they might guard against prostate cancer and polycystic ovary syndrome(PCOS).
Here’s the thing about both of those conditions, though: They’re associated with high testosterone levels.
In one study, researchers had a woman with PCOS take 30 grams of flaxseed every day for around 100 days. At the end of the study, the woman’s total serum testosterone had decreased by 70 percent.
That’s terrific news for women with PCOS. It’s not great news for men who are worried about low-T. However, before you throw out your flaxseed waffles, you should probably talk to your doctor, as low testosterone isn’t something you can self-diagnose.
8. Working Out (or Not Working Out)
As men get older, they need to exercise regularly to maintain their muscle mass, but training can also help to keep T-levels in line. Exercisers generally have higher testosterone levels than couch potatoes—about 14 percent higher, according to one study.
However, if you train too hard, you’ll run into issues.
When [people with low testosterone levels] work out, they may feel that they’re not getting the benefits of those workouts.
“There’s something called overtraining syndrome where people work out too much,” Paulvin says. “It almost kind of shuts down some of the systems, and the body will start decreasing the testosterone level.”