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Low sex drive: Waning testosterone level is a sign of chronic disease

Decreasing testosterone levels in men should be alarming. It can contribute to a silent decline in overall health, and not just their sex drive.

fitness Updated: Apr 19, 2018 18:56 IST
Low libido in men, studies suggest, is caused by wrong lifestyle, among other things.
Low libido in men, studies suggest, is caused by wrong lifestyle, among other things. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

If you thought low testosterone levels affect only men’s sex drive, think again. Past research has established that low libido in men can lead to depression. It also reduces blood sugar regulation, increasing risk of developing diabetes.

There’s more damage that low libido can do to men’s health. A recent study has found that testosterone deficiency in men is associated with chronic health conditions. Mark Peterson, lead author of the study, says, “Men should be concerned about declining total testosterone, even if it has not reached a level to warrant a clinical diagnosis (<300 ng/dL [10.4 nmol/L]). A lot of men may not be aware of the risk factors for testosterone deficiency because of their current lifestyle. And more importantly, that declining levels could be contributing to a silent decline in overall health and increased risk for chronic disease.”

“If we look at data for men from a population level, it has become evident over time that chronic disease is on the rise in older males,” adds Peterson. “But we’re also finding that a consequence of being obese and physically inactive is that men are seeing declines in testosterone even at younger ages.”

Being physically inactive or obese can lead to low testosterone levels even at younger ages. (Shutterstock)

Peterson and colleagues studied this relationship among testosterone, age and chronic disease. “Previous research in the field has shown that total testosterone deficiency in men increases with age, and studies have shown that testosterone deficiency is also associated with obesity-related chronic diseases,” Peterson says.

Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the research team examined the extent to which hypogonadism is prevalent among men of all ages. Hypogonadism is when your sex glands produce little or no sex hormones. Of the 2,399 men in the survey who were at least 20 years old, 2,161 had complete information on demographics (e.g., age, ethnicity and household income), chronic disease diagnoses, blood samples obtained for total testosterone, grip strength and lab results for cardiometabolic disease risk factors.

Peterson and team then examined prevalence of nine chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension and clinical depression. The researchers studied the prevalence of multimorbidity (when two or more of the chronic conditions were present), among three age groups (young, middle-aged and older men) with and without testosterone deficiency. They found that low total testosterone was associated with multimorbidity in all age groups -- but it was more prevalent among young and older men with testosterone deficiency.

The study has been published in Scientific Reports.

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