Can Testosterone Slow Aging?

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Could testosterone be the fountain of youth? This male sexual hormone has been controversially prescribed by some "anti-aging doctors" to slow the aging process. But is it safe? And does it actually work? Here's what to know about whether the rewards outweigh the risks for anti-aging hormone supplements.

Overview of Testosterone

Testosterone is a hormone that plays a large part in the development of male secondary sexual characteristics as well as helping to regulate bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass, and strength. Testosterone also regulates sex drive, or libido, and is produced by both men and women (though women produce much smaller amounts). Testosterone production peaks in adolescence and early adulthood. After that, testosterone levels slowly decline. However, throughout life, most men produce large quantities of testosterone.

Conditions Associated With Testosterone Deficiency

Many age-related sexual problems in men are incorrectly blamed on testosterone deficiency. Erectile dysfunction, for example, is most often caused by problems with circulation, like high blood pressure, or damage to the nerves involved in the erection process due to a disease such as diabetes mellitus, and not due to a decrease in testosterone.

In addition, the term male menopause, also called andropause or viropause, has emerged to describe the changes that men go through as they age. Most of the discussion centers on a decline in testosterone levels, but there is little evidence that such a condition exists. The decline in male testosterone levels occurs slowly, over many years. Throughout their lives, most men remain within the “normal” range of testosterone production.

Supplements May Help

Men whose bodies make little or no testosterone can be helped by testosterone supplements. However, there is little research on the effects of testosterone supplementation on otherwise healthy men who produce a normal amount of testosterone for their age. There are ongoing studies attempting to learn more about the risks and benefits of testosterone supplementation.

Before Starting Testosterone Supplementation

There are certain conditions in which testosterone supplementation therapy may not be ideal:

  1. In patients with prostate cancer, as testosterone supplementation may cause cancer cells to grow quickly.
  2. In certain patients with lower urinary tract symptoms that are severe.
  3. In patients with increased numbers of red blood cells in the blood, as testosterone may increase red blood cell production further.
  4. In patients with sleep apnea characterized by loud snoring and increased daytime sleepiness.
  5. In patients who have uncontrolled heart failure.

A Word From Verywell

Testosterone supplementation is an appropriate medical treatment for those who produce little or no testosterone on their own. Some others report an increase in muscle mass and energy when taking testosterone, but research has not proven those claims and the risks are far greater than the potential benefits. In short, avoid testosterone treatments for anti-aging benefits.

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  • National Institute on Aging. National Institutes of Health. Pills, Patches, and Shots: Can Hormones Prevent Aging?