Muscle loss in men can be a major problem as their bodies age. Lack of strength, especially as we age can have far-reaching consequences that can affect your overall quality of life.
The testes produce testosterone that travels through a man’s bloodstream, and it gives other tissues and organs instructions for what they are supposed to do. One of the things that testosterone does is maintain a man’s muscle mass.
When there is a hormonal imbalance, there is too much or not enough testosterone in a man’s bloodstream, and this leads to several side effects. Because there isn’t enough testosterone in a man’s bloodstream to help maintain his muscle mass, he experiences muscle loss due to hormone imbalance.
The Feedback Loop
The “feedback loop” is what keeps testosterone at a relatively even level. It comprises the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the testes. When testosterone is low, the hypothalamus sends signals to the pituitary gland to secrete luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone or LH-RH. Then, the pituitary gland secretes luteinizing hormone or LH. This stimulates the interstitial cells to secrete testosterone. After there is a sufficient amount of testosterone, the hypothalamus sends signals to the pituitary gland to stop releasing LH-RH.
When the process described above isn’t functioning normally, such as when the level of testosterone is not as plentiful as it used to be, a hormonal imbalance occurs. This can cause several symptoms.
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Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance
Several symptoms of hormone imbalance include the following:
- Muscle loss
- Hot flashes
- Tenderness of the breasts
- Difficulties with concentrating
- Erectile dysfunction
- Bone loss
- Breast tenderness
How Do Hormone Levels Change as We Age?
As we age, the interstitial cells may not be as sensitive to LH as they were in a man’s younger years. The amount of LH that the body produces may also decrease and have an effect on the amount of testosterone that can be released into the bloodstream. Aging also affects LH-RH. Over time, the body may produce less of this hormone, or it may slow down the production of LH-RH as time goes by.
Testosterone begins to work when an embryo is in its seventh week. Testosterone begins to be more prominent so that it can start the differentiation of the male sex organs. From that moment on, the baby’s testosterone levels will be very high, but before the baby is born, testosterone levels will plummet. As the child grows, he will experience an increase in testosterone, but these levels always return to lower levels until he reaches puberty.
During puberty, the hypothalamus stimulates the pituitary gland to produce LH-RH. The LH-RH stimulates the testes to begin producing testosterone. This is when a boy’s penis, scrotum and testes begin to grow, but it also causes male secondary sex characteristics to appear. These include pubic hair, body hair and facial hair. The voice also deepens.
Puberty is the time when muscle mass begins to increase because of higher testosterone levels. Peak production of testosterone occurs when a boy reaches the age of 17, but his levels will be high for two or three more decades.
At around the age of 40, testosterone levels begin to decrease. A female’s estrogen levels will take a dramatic drop at menopause, but men experience the reduction of their sex hormone differently. Beginning at age 40, testosterone levels drop approximately 1% to 2% every year, so it is a much slower process. Because of this, many older men will have high testosterone levels and can continue to father children if they so desire.
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What Is Andropause?
Andropause is also known as “male menopause,” and it is when a man’s testosterone levels begin to decline due to age. Between the ages of 40 and 50, a small number of men begin to experience symptoms of andropause, but the vast majority start to experience these symptoms between the ages of 50 and 60.
More than 45% of men experiencing andropause begin to have erectile issues, and about 40% start to notice that they are losing strength. More than 30% of men experience memory loss, and about 10% begin to have problems with intimacy. Approximately 7% of men receive a diagnosis of osteoporosis.
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Physical Changes During Andropause
During andropause, the testes become smaller, and this is when they start to produce less testosterone. The testes lose their ability to produce as much sperm as they did in the younger years, but they are still capable of producing sperm that can eventually fertilize an egg. Several men in their 70s, 80s and 90s have received the joyful news that they are going to be fathers at those late ages.
Because testosterone production is lower in men from the age of 50 and above, it starts to take them longer to achieve an erection. An erection occurs when the cavernous masses that exist in the penis fill with blood. As this is happening, the size of the penis is increasing. This process only takes about 10 to 15 seconds. After the man completes his sexual activity, the blood flows out, and the penis returns to its regular size. Achieving an erection is something that even babies can do, and men can continue to have them when they are in their 90s.
Low testosterone levels are also the reason that a man’s erections aren’t as firm as they were in the past. When they could achieve an erection in a matter of seconds during their younger years, an older man may need several minutes to accomplish the same goal.
In addition to needing more time to achieve an erection, older men also have to take more time before they can reach orgasm. This is also because testosterone production is lower. Although this is the case, most men will be able to achieve an erection throughout their entire lives.
Older men also experience differences when they ejaculate semen. At older ages, it may not shoot out as it did during his younger years. Instead, the semen may seep out, and the contractions he has during orgasm may not occur as often. The semen may be weaker as well. Lastly, erections in older men deflate at a faster rate.
Muscle Loss During Andropause
When testosterone levels begin to fall at the age of 40, many men begin to notice the symptoms of andropause. Between the ages of 40 and 70, men start to lose between 12 and 20 pounds of their muscle mass. These men also lose two inches in height on average. This is also the time when they lose 15% of their bone mass. While these changes are going on, men also start to gain weight.
Women and Testosterone Levels
A man’s body produces estrogen, and a woman’s body produces testosterone, so women can experience testosterone imbalances just like men. By the age of 40, a woman’s testosterone levels have dropped by 50%, and it causes several symptoms. For example, women notice that their sex drives have decreased, but they also experience depression, muscle weakness and may feel lethargic.
A woman under the age of 50 with a testosterone level that is less than 25 ng/dL receives a diagnosis of low testosterone. Women over the age of 50 receive this diagnosis if their testosterone levels are below 20 ng/dL. Women may receive hormone replacement therapy to correct this imbalance.
How Does Hormone Replacement Therapy Help With Muscle Loss?
It depended on the dose, but testosterone replacement therapy increased men’s grip strength. In another study, men were able to press a greater amount of weight and enjoy an increase of lean muscle mass. Other studies showed improvements in muscle strength and muscle size.
What Is a Normal Testosterone Level for Men?
The American Urological Association stated that normal testosterone levels for a man are equal to 300 ng/dL. Testosterone levels below 300 ng/dL are considered to be low, and the man would be diagnosed with low testosterone. Hormone replacement therapy would not necessarily be prescribed for a man with a testosterone level lower than 300 ng/dL because it is not recommended by the Food and Drug Administration.
What Is Hypogonadism?
Hypogonadism is the result when the male body doesn’t produce enough testosterone. As was mentioned above, testosterone levels naturally begin to fall after a man reaches the age of 40, but he may not necessarily know that this is occurring because the decline is gradual. If he begins to experience any symptoms, he may visit his physician to find out what is wrong. The diagnosis may be hypogonadism, but his physician may not put him on a testosterone replacement therapy.
In order to receive hormone replacement therapy, a man would typically need to have testosterone levels below 300 ng/dL and several symptoms of low testosterone.
Some of these symptoms include the following:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Fewer numbers of spontaneous erections
- Low libido
Low testosterone also causes many other symptoms, and these include the following:
- Bone loss
- Muscle loss
- Difficulties sleeping
What Are the Benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Men experience several benefits when their doctors place them on hormone replacement therapy. Studies demonstrated that when male subjects received testosterone replacement therapy, their muscles grew bigger and stronger. As their lean body mass increased, they also saw their energy levels increase. This therapy also helped these men control their weight.
Because testosterone builds the bones, we can expect to see improvements in bone mass. As testosterone decreases, bone mass also decreases, but when male subjects were given testosterone supplements, their testosterone levels increased and so did their bone mass. This lowered their risk of developing osteoporosis that leads to weak bones and causes fractures.
Some studies demonstrated that testosterone replacement therapy improves heart health. A large study with 83,000 male subjects showed that subjects on testosterone replacement therapy were 36% less likely to have a stroke. The same study also showed that the subjects were 24% less likely to experience a heart attack.
Low libido is a symptom of low testosterone, but testosterone replacement therapy improved male subjects’ sexual desire and performance.
Higher testosterone levels also improve a man’s ability to think and process information. In addition to that, men with higher testosterone levels are not diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease as often as men with lower testosterone levels.
Depression is another symptom associated with low testosterone, but when men have testosterone replacement therapy, they experience an improvement in their moods and begin to feel better. Instances of irritability and fatigue also go down.
How Long Does It Take to Correct a Hormone Imbalance with HRT?
Testosterone replacement therapy improves bone density right away in males. Men started to have increased bone density after just six months. It takes about three months for men to observe that their strength is returning and three weeks for them to feel pleasure again. Men having difficulties with erectile dysfunction saw improvements after about six months had passed, and their libidos increased after about three weeks.
If you are suffering any of the symptoms associated with low testosterone, including some of the symptoms mentioned above, we encourage you to contact us today.
Because we understand that treatment is just the beginning of the healing and not the end of it, we have created a dedicated team of medical professionals and Wellness Concierges who can help guide you through the entire process. Call us today at 305-682-1818 to speak with one of our knowledgeable wellness advisors who will be able to answer any lingering questions you may have and help to get you set up with your first appointment.
- Human Sexuality in a World of Diversity by Spencer Rathus, Jeffrey S. Nevid and Lois Fichner-Rathus.