6 Ways You’re Ruining Your Testosterone

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If you’re concerned about low testosterone levels, take a look at your everyday habits and way of life. They could be contributing to a drop.

Your doctor can order a blood test to check your testosterone levels if you suspect they’re low. Testosterone levels are usually related to age and physical fitness, according to Ghandi Saadeh, MD, an internal medicine and endocrinology specialist with Sentara Medical Group in Kempsville, Virginia. But your doctor will probably also ask about your lifestyle to find out what else might be going on.

Here are a few ways you may be lowering your testosterone levels without knowing it:

1. Being overweight. “Waist size has a much bigger impact on testosterone than aging,” says endocrinologist Frances Hayes, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “We can’t slow aging, but we can prevent weight gain.” Excess weight can keep testosterone levels low, according to the Society for Endocrinology. Obese and overweight men see the greatest improvement in their testosterone levels if they lose weight with a combination of exercise and a restricted-calorie diet, according to research in the July 2014 Journal of Diabetes and Obesity. Aim to lose at least 15 percent of your weight — an amount that triggers a significant rise in testosterone, according to the results of the European Male Aging Study, which followed more than 2,000 men aged 40 and older for about four years. The results were published in the February 2013 European Journal of Endocrinology.

2. Sitting around. Being physically inactive could also lower your testosterone. When researchers had 30 sedentary young men participate in a 12-week exercise program, they found that the participants’ testosterone levels increased, according to a study in the April-June 2014 Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. In addition to weight loss, with exercise “men may note improvements in testosterone, bone density, memory, fertility, heart and sexual health, as well as mood,” says Ryan P. Smith, MD, a urologist with the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, Virginia.

3. Using narcotic pain medications. “Continuous use of narcotic painkillers can cause low testosterone,” says Dr. Saadeh. A review article in the May-June 2015 Journal of Opioid Management found a strong link between long-term use of narcotic pain medications and hypogonadism, but cautioned that researchers do not yet know whether there’s a link between chronic pain management and low testosterone. Talk with your doctor about how to stop using these medications, Saadeh advises.

4. Using anabolic steroids. “Use of anabolic steroids for bodybuilding will cause the testes to shut down their testosterone production,” Saadeh says. “This could be permanent, even after discontinuation of these drugs.” When researchers compared weight lifters who used anabolic-androgenic steroids with weight lifters who did not use them, they found an increased risk for low testosterone even after the weight lifters stopped using steroids, according to research in the May 2015 journal Addiction. Make sure you let your doctor know if you’re now using, or have ever used, steroids for bodybuilding.

5. Using hair-loss medications. “Certain hair-loss medications, such as Propecia(finasteride), block the conversion of testosterone into other active metabolites and can cause low libido and sexual function,” Saadeh says. Some people experience persistent symptoms like sexual dysfunction and depression after using finasteride, possibly because of the medication’s effect on testosterone and other hormones in the body, according to February 2015 research in The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry & Molecular Biology.

6. Not getting enough sleep. “Sleep disruption does tend to lower testosterone, and there is a link between obstructive sleep apnea [and low testosterone],” Dr. Hayes says. A review of research underscores the complicated relationship among excess weight, sleep disturbance, and low testosterone, and examines the recommendation that men both lose weight and use a CPAP machine to correct sleep apnea. The research was published in the June 2014 journal Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity.

While researchers untangle all of this, take Saadeh’s advice: “A normal sleep cycle is important.” Try to stick to a regular sleep-wake cycle and get plenty of quality sleep. If you or your partner suspects you have sleep apnea, a condition in which you stop breathing briefly during the night, talk with your doctor.

Source: Everyday Health

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