Over the years, testosterone has usually been relegated to improving a man’s libido and bulking up the muscles of body builders. But recent studies indicate that testosterone is an essential factor in men’s health and, in fact, may be the best indicator of a man’s general health, according to a panel of experts reporting at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association in Atlanta.

Abraham Morgentaler, MD, associate clinical professor of urology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said, “We used to think of testosterone as being all about sex. Today the evidence suggests that the single best indicator of a man’s health status is his serum testosterone.”

Surprisingly, in the United States, more than 14 million men age 45 and older have low serum testosterone. It has been widely shown that men with low testosterone levels are at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome complex—which includes obesity, hypertension, high blood pressure, high serum lipids, and a type of diabetes that is resistant to insulin—than men with normal testosterone levels.

A low baseline testosterone level is predictive of metabolic syndrome complex, and testosterone replenishment appears to improve all aspects of a man’s health in this regard.

Men who experience erectile dysfunction, a diminished libido, impaired orgasmic function, or metabolic syndrome complex conditions should be screened for testosterone deficiency and treated with testosterone replacement therapy if a deficiency is found.

It is well known that testosterone deficiency leads to osteoporosis, and about one-third of hip fractures worldwide occur in men. The consequences of hip fractures in men are profound, with a mortality rate as high as 37.5 percent within one year, according to Dr. Morgentaler. Although the process is slow, testosterone is known to improve bone mineral density, diminish osteoporosis, and decrease the incidence of bone fractures.

An emerging body of evidence indicates that testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is also beneficial for cardiovascular disease and diabetes in general, particularly in men who have a low serum testosterone.

Because testosterone cannot be taken orally, as it is toxic to the liver, the recent development of several topical delivery systems consisting of gels, creams, and patches has made the administration of testosterone extremely easy. Testosterone can also be given by an intramuscular injection, though injections must be administered every three weeks or so.

All of this new data suggests that testosterone may be the best indicator of men’s health and is an essential hormone that should be measured and replaced if deficient.

Dudley S. Danoff, MD, FACS is the attending urologic surgeon and founder/president of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Tower Urology Group in Los Angeles, California. He is the author of Penis Power: The Ultimate Guide To Male Sexual Health (Del Monaco Press, 2011) and Superpotency (Warner Books).

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