Testosterone is the main male sex hormone. It supports normal male traits such as muscle growth, facial hair, and deep voice.
In men, testosterone also plays a key role in the development of male reproductive tissues such as the testis and prostate, as well as promoting secondary sexual characteristics such as increased bone mass. In addition, testosterone is essential for health and well-being, as well as the prevention of osteoporosis.
Testosterone levels can fluctuate depending on factors such as age, activities, even environment.
Here are some things you can do to maintain healthier levels:
1. Get Enough Sleep.
Poor sleep can have consequences for your testosterone level.
George Yu, MD, a urology professor at the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., says poor sleep is the most important factor that contributes to low testosterone in many men. A lack of sleep affects a variety of hormones and chemicals in your bloodstream. This, in turn, can have a harmful impact on your testosterone.
Make sleep a priority, aiming for seven to eight hours per night, even if it means rearranging your schedule or dropping your habit of late-night TV. Prize your sleep, just like you’d prize a healthy diet and active lifestyle. It’s that important.
If you’re having problems getting good sleep on a regular basis, talk to your doctor.
2. Keep a Healthy Weight.
Men who are overweight or obese often have low testosterone levels, says Alvin M. Matsumoto, MD, of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.
For those men, losing the extra weight can help bring testosterone back up, he says. Likewise, for men who are underweight, getting your weight up to a healthy level can also have a positive effect on the hormone.
3. Stay Active.
Testosterone adapts to your body’s needs, Yu says. If you spend most of your time lying on the couch, your brain gets the message that you don’t need as much to bolster your muscles and bones.
But when you are physically active, your brain sends out the signal for more of the hormone, he says.
Building strength with several sessions of weights or elastic bands each week. Work with a trainer to learn proper form so you don’t injure yourself.
Don’t go overboard. Extreme amounts of endurance exercise, at the level of elite athletes, can actually lower your testosterone.
4. Control of Your Stress.
If you’re under constant stress, your body will be churning out a steady stream of the stress hormone cortisol. It will be less able to create testosterone. As a result, controlling your stress is important for keeping up your testosterone, he says.
Miner’s advice to the over-stressed men he sees in his office is to:
Cut back on long work hours. If you’re logging lots of overtime, try to whittle your workday down to 10 hours or less.
Spend two hours a day on activities that you enjoy that aren’t work- or exercise-related, such as reading or playing music.
5. Review Your Medications.
Some medicines can cause a drop in your testosterone level, Matsumoto says. These include:
- Opioid drugs such as fentanyl, MS Contin, and OxyContin
- Glucocorticoid drugs such as prednisone
- Anabolic steroids used for building muscles and improving athletic performance
You shouldn’t stop taking any of your medication. If you’re concerned about your testosterone level, you and your doctor can go over your medications to make sure that’s not the problem and make adjustments to your treatment.
6. Forget the Supplements.
Finally, although you’re likely to encounter online ads for testosterone-boosting supplements, you aren’t likely to find any that will do much good.
Your body naturally makes a hormone called DHEA that it can convert to testosterone. DHEA is also available in supplement form. But neither Miner nor Matsumoto advise using DHEA supplements, since they will do little to actually raise your testosterone, they say.
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