Understanding Low Testosterone in Men and How to Address It 

Spread the love

Testosterone is a powerful hormone responsible for several key functions in males, including sexual characteristics, bone density, muscle mass, and fat distribution regulation.

As men age, testosterone levels gradually decline, leading to several health problems. However, a bigger societal concern is the persistent, consistent decline of testosterone in men over decades.  

What’s happening? Why is testosterone declining generation after generation? And is there anything we can do about it? Read on to find out. 

What is Testosterone? 

Testosterone is a male sex hormone primarily produced in the testes. It is also produced in smaller amounts in women’s ovaries and adrenal glands.  

Testosterone plays a critical role in the development of male sexual characteristics, such as the growth of facial and body hair, deepening of the voice, and development of the testes and penis. 

But its role doesn’t stop after puberty – testosterone levels control everything from maintaining muscle and bone density to regulation of fat distribution. 

It’s a life-giving – and changing – hormone. Testosterone also plays a role in the production of red blood cells, and low levels are linked to increased rates of depression and cognitive decline.  

Testosterone levels peak during puberty and young adulthood and gradually decline with age. Normal testosterone levels range from 300 to 1,000 ng/dL (nanograms per deciliter) in men and 15 to 70 ng/dL in women (University of Rochester, n.d.).  

Why is Testosterone Falling? 

Declining testosterone levels are indisputable (Travison et al., 2007). The cause is somewhat less understood.

Several culprits have been identified – including falling smoking rates. Surprisingly, smoking actually raises testosterone levels (Wang et al., 2013). 

Smoking cessation is unlikely to explain the widespread and persistent decline, however. Poor health choices are another, more likely, culprit.

A combination of poor sleep, less physical activity, and rising obesity are a toxic cocktail precipitating testosterone decline. Alongside alcohol consumption, it may just explain the lower testosterone levels. 

Obese men tend to have lower testosterone levels (Kelly and Jones, 2015). In part, that’s because obese people have lower levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG).

SHBG transports sex hormones through the blood. Moreover, fat cells produce estrogen, which, in turn, competes with testosterone for these SHBGs, further accentuating the decline.  

However, a much under appreciated factor is environmental pollution. Chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls, bisphenol A, and triclosan disrupt the human hormone system.

Either mimicking estrogen or blocking testosterone, leading to lower testosterone levels (Goncharov et al., 2009). Unfortunately, once released, these chemicals are almost impossible to remove from the environment.  

Low Testosterone: Symptoms and Diagnosis 

Low testosterone levels can lead to a range of symptoms, including: 

  • Reduced sex drive and erectile dysfunction
  • Fatigue and decreased energy levels 
  • Loss of muscle mass and strength 
  • Increased body fat 
  • Mood changes, such as depression and irritability 
  • Decreased bone density and increased risk of fractures 
  • Cognitive decline and memory problems

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to talk to your doctor. A simple blood test can measure your testosterone levels and determine if you have low testosterone. 

To be diagnosed with low testosterone, men must have a total testosterone level of less than 300 ng/dL and have symptoms such as those listed above.  

However, testosterone levels can vary widely throughout the day, so multiple tests may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis. 

In addition to measuring testosterone levels, your doctor may also conduct other tests to rule out underlying health conditions contributing to your symptoms, such as thyroid problems or sleep apnea. 

How to Increase Testosterone Levels 

The best way to boost testosterone levels is to address the underlying unhealthy habits contributing to low testosterone. Here are some steps you can take: 

  • Get enough sleep: Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night (Leproult and Van Couter, 2011)
  • Eat a healthy, nutritious diet: Focus on whole, unprocessed foods and avoid sugary, high-fat, and high-sodium foods 
  • Lose weight: If you are overweight or obese, losing weight can significantly affect your testosterone levels 
  • Exercise regularly: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, such as brisk walking or cycling (Kumagai et al., 2016). Weight training is also associated with a significant boost to testosterone (Hooper et al., 2017) 
  • Manage stress: Chronic stress can lead to high cortisol levels, which can decrease testosterone levels 
  • Avoid environmental toxins: Exposure to certain chemicals, such as pesticides and plastics, can disrupt hormone levels in the body
  • Consider testosterone replacement therapy: If lifestyle changes are not enough to improve your testosterone levels, your doctor may recommend testosterone replacement therapy. This can be in the form of injections, gels, patches, or pellets (Storer et al., 2017)

It is important to note that testosterone replacement therapy does come with risks and side effects, including an increased risk of blood clots, sleep apnea, and prostate cancer.

Your doctor can discuss these risks with you and help you determine if testosterone replacement therapy is right for you. 

Final Thoughts 

Low testosterone levels are a growing problem for men, with declining health levels and lifestyle factors playing a significant role. 

However, men can take steps to improve their testosterone levels and overall health, including getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and managing stress.

If these changes are insufficient, testosterone replacement therapy may be an option.  

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for seeking medical attention. If you are experiencing symptoms of low testosterone, talk to your doctor to determine the best course of action for your individual needs. 


Written by: Emmanuel J. Osemota 


Goncharov, A., Rej, R., Negoita, S., Schymura, M., Santiago-Rivera, A., Morse, G., Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment and Carpenter, D.O., 2009. Lower serum testosterone associated with elevated polychlorinated biphenyl concentrations in Native American men. Environmental health perspectives, 117(9), pp.1454-1460. 

Hooper, D.R., Kraemer, W.J., Focht, B.C., Volek, J.S., DuPont, W.H., Caldwell, L.K., and Maresh, C.M., 2017. Endocrinological roles for testosterone in resistance exercise responses and adaptations. Sports Medicine, 47, pp.1709-1720. 

Kelly, D.M. and Jones, T.H., 2015. Testosterone and obesity. Obesity Reviews, 16(7), pp.581-606. 

Kumagai, H., Zempo-Miyaki, A., Yoshikawa, T., Tsujimoto, T., Tanaka, K. and Maeda, S., 2016. Increased physical activity has a greater effect than reduced energy intake on lifestyle modification-induced increases in testosterone. Journal of clinical biochemistry and nutrition, 58(1), pp.84-89. 

Leproult, R. and Van Cauter, E., 2011. Effect of 1 week of sleep restriction on testosterone levels in young healthy men. Jama, 305(21), pp.2173-2174. 

Rochester.edu. (2019). Total Testosterone – Health Encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center. [online] Available at:  

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=testosterone_total. [Accessed on 18/03/2023] 

Storer, T.W., Basaria, S., Traustadottir, T., Harman, S.M., Pencina, K., Li, Z., Travison, T.G., Miciek, R., Tsitouras, P., Hally, K. and Huang, G., 2017. Effects of testosterone supplementation for 3 years on muscle performance and physical function in older men. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 102(2), pp.583-593. 

Travison, T.G., Araujo, A.B., O’Donnell, A.B., Kupelian, V. and McKinlay, J.B., 2007. A population-level decline in serum testosterone levels in American men. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 92(1), pp.196-202. 

Wang, W., Yang, X., Liang, J., Liao, M., Zhang, H., Qin, X., Mo, L., Lv, W. and Mo, Z., 2013. Cigarette smoking has a positive and independent effect on testosterone levels. Hormones, 12(4), pp.567-577. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *