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Testosterone is crucial for building muscle and fueling your sex drive.
But receptors for the hormone is actually in your body, from your brain to your bones to your blood vessels.
So if you (almost) T, the health impact could extend far beyond the gym and the bedroom, says the University of Washington endocrinologist Bradley Anawalt, M. D., a spokesman for the Endocrine Society.
Related: 5 Simple Ways to get Your Testosterone to Increase
The eight symptoms that follow are not evidence of low testosterone on their own. You have two blood tests shows a low level—usually around 300 nanograms per declileter (ng/dL) or lower, depending on the lab before your doctor makes an official low testosterone diagnosis, Dr. Anawalt says.
The good news is, if low T is really the fault of many of the health of the side effects of low testosterone can be reversed, or at least improved with testosterone therapy.
1. LOW TESTOSTERONE SYMPTOM: YOUR SEX DRIVE DISAPPEARS.
Perhaps the most famous, fastest and most common effect of low T is low libido, says urologist Philip Werthman, M. D., director of the Center for Male Reproductive Medicine and Vasectomy Reversal in Los Angeles.
In fact, almost every patient who comes to his office with known or suspected low T for complaining about a lack of sexual desire. In addition, want less sex, men with low T can also masturbate less and report fewer fantasies and erotic dreams.
Brain areas involved in sexual desire, including the amygdala, are packed with testosterone receptors, says S. Adam Ramin, M. D., urologic surgeon and medical director of Urology Cancer Specialists in Los Angeles.
The hormone fits in as a slot on the inside of a button, the lighting of them to generate. Without that, you’re missing a critical step in the turn process.
This lack of desire to have sex may cause problems with the erection, but low T does not directly affect the ducts that are involved in getting or staying hard, Dr. Ramin says.
Related: The men’s Health Guide For erectile Dysfunction: What is the cause, How to Fix It, and How to Avoid Them
2. LOW-TESTOSTERONE-SYMPTOM: YOUR MUSCLES SHRINK.
Sufficient testosterone puts your body in an anabolic, or muscle-building, by helping your body to produce and assemble proteins form the building blocks of lean mass.
When your testosterone levels drop, your body turns catabolic instead, the breaking down of muscle tissue instead of build-up, Dr. Werthman says.
At first, you might notice that it is harder to have so much weight in the gym or build muscle, he notes.
Related: What is the Most Muscle You Can Get?
And after a few weeks of low T, you can expect to lose muscle mass, Dr. Anawalt says.
In fact, in a Japanese study, people with low free testosterone levels—a measure of the amount of the hormone available for binding to receptors—had double to triple the risk of the loss of muscle mass with age as people with a normal levels.
3. LOW TESTOSTERONE SYMPTOM: YOUR PENIS MAY BE SMALLER, ALSO.
Without a steady flow of testosterone, the tissue in the penis, scrotum and testicles may atrophy, or shrink, says Dr. Ramin.
As a result, your penis might lose length and girth. You notice that your balls shrink, too—they often shrink to half the size and turn squishy instead of the company, ” he says.
Although testosterone replacement therapy will not bring back your testicular volume, when it comes to your penis, the treatment “has a good chance of restoring the glory”, Dr. Ramin says. (In fact, testosterone therapy in boys with a micropenis can increase their size up to an inch and a half, according to a study in the Indian Journal of Urology.)
4. LOW TESTOSTERONE SYMPTOM: YOUR BELLY GROWS.
Even if you lose size where it counts, you’ll get it where it hurts, Dr. Anawalt says.
In an Australian study, men with prostate cancer was 14 percent more body fat and 22 percent more visceral fat after a year of androgen deprivation therapy, a treatment that is given to the effects of testosterone.
Visceral fat is deep abdominal fat that forms around your organs and increases your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Related: METASHRED EXTREME—the Ultimate Fitness Program From Men’s Health is Designed to Destroy body fat and maximize muscle growth At the Same Time
In men, low testosterone can increase the activity of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, the authors of the study suspect. This connection drives circulate building blocks called lipids in visceral fat cells, plumping.
5. LOW TESTOSTERONE SYMPTOM: YOUR MEMORY IS FALTERING.
Problems with thinking and memory, often occurs in men with a low T, Dr. Werthman says.
In a 2015 study from Australia, men that testosterone levels decreased over 5 years, also experienced a decline in scores on tests of their mental functions and memory.
In addition to the amygdala, regions of the brain that are important for memory and attention—such as the brain—testosterone receptors.
When there is not enough of the hormone pumps in the receptors, your brain cells are unable to function as well, the authors of the study note.
6. LOW TESTOSTERONE SYMPTOM: YOUR MOOD TANKS.
Some of the side effects of low testosterone such as sexual dysfunction and weight gain can bring on the blues. But there is also evidence of a more direct effect of low testosterone on mood.
According to research in the Endocrine Journal, 23 percent of the young men with newly diagnosed low testosterone met the criteria for depression, compared to only 5 percent of the young men with normal levels of the hormone.
Empty testosterone receptors in the brain areas linked to mood are probably responsible for your depressive state, Dr. Ramin says.
What’s more, mood disorders such as depression or anxiety can kick-off a vicious circle, he noted—depression can suppress your testicles ability to produce testosterone, a worsening of the problem.
7. LOW-TESTOSTERONE-SYMPTOM: YOUR BONES WEAKEN.
Bone is actually living tissue, constantly being broken down and rebuilt, Dr. Ramin says.
When testosterone levels drop, your bone breaks down faster than your body can build back up.
As a result, you are at a higher risk of low bone density, osteoporosis and fractures, Dr. Anawalt says.
8. LOW TESTOSTERONE SYMPTOM: YOUR HEART MIGHT BE AT RISK.
The effect of testosterone on the risk of heart problems has stoked controversy among experts, Dr. Anawalt says.
On the one hand, a low level of testosterone may be linked to heart problems. In fact, a study from the united kingdom found men with low T had a higher risk of dying from heart disease than men with a normal level.
This may be because testosterone can help open up blood vessels to the heart so that the blood more freely.
But on the other hand, some studies have suggested that testosterone therapy, especially in older people or people with an existing heart conditions can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. Experts think that it can thicken the blood, making a clot more likely.
Related: 30 Simple Ways to Save on Your Heart Today
It seems that the extra testosterone can increase levels to high, Dr. Anawalt says.
So if you are a candidate for testosterone therapy, make sure you talk with your doctor about the benefits and the risks, Dr. Werthman says.
Your doctor can test your testosterone levels after you first start therapy or changing doses, or sometimes between shots, if you receive treatment by injection to ensure that the level is not rising too high, Dr. Anawalt says.
This article originally appeared on MensHealth.com.