In recent years, it would seem that the public fear of over-abundant testosterone is more prominent than worries over low testosterone levels (a condition known alternatively as hypotestosteronemia.) This can be seen in the ongoing controversy over athletes’ use of performance-enhancing drugs, and the ongoing efforts of the World Anti-Doping Agency to keep the misuse of anabolic or biologically constructive steroids in the spotlight – a controversy which has regrettably caused the mere mention of the word “steroid” to be blindly associated with something “illegal,” in spite of the hormone’s near-universal natural occurrence in the human body. It is not at all uncommon to encounter self-proclaimed ‘experts’ on the topic who regularly “[express] an opinion about ‘steroids’ as if they were a single entity.”
Despite the present-day media and pop culture condemnation of testosterone abuse, testosterone deficiency is no less of a serious matter, especially considering the sheer number of individuals that it affects (up to one in four adult males over 30 years of age.) Though it is natural for testosterone levels to decrease along with age, sufferers of more advanced hypotestosteronemia will generally suffer decreased longevity as well. “Decreased longevity,” or the more clinical “all-cause mortality,” is a vague concept which could imply just about any type of ailment as the life-shortening agent, so it is more sensible to list cancer, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease as the most fatal long-term effects of low testosterone.
The cardiovascular problems or risk factors associated with this state are numerous enough to cause alarm, including – but not limited to – hypertension, insulin resistance and dyslipidemia [abnormally high occurrence of cholesterol and fat in the blood.] For those already experiencing respiratory conditions, they can expect a worsening of those conditions – especially asthma, pneumonia, and chronic lung disease – from testosterone loss.
Maintaining a fit physical appearance will also present a challenge for those grappling with testosterone deficiency. A 2007 Science News report lists abdominal obesity as another symptom of low testosterone levels: researcher Richard W. Stahlhut, of the University of Rochester’s School of Medicine and Dentistry notes that, partially owing to the cardiovascular issues already mentioned, type 2 diabetes is common among sufferers of low testosterone levels, thus leading to an increased risk of obesity.
Interestingly, psychological disorders along the lines of depression will be prevalent among those experiencing low testosterone levels, to the point where the latter condition will be confused with “merely” being the former condition. The confirmation of low testosterone as the ‘cuplrit’ may only become clear once treatment with common anti-depressants prove to be fruitless. Chronic fatigue is in fact the symptom most commonly attributed to low testosterone levels, along with a concurrent apathetic or irritable state that is too often seen as the effect of depression alone.
With this psychological well-being in mind, it is definitely worth considering the increasing body of evidence showing that higher testosterone levels contribute to health benefits outside of the most “pop”-oriented concerns, e.g. increased sexual performance (it is also worth noting that such performance can also be increased by non-steroid agents like dopamine, GABA [gamma-aminobutyric acid], opioids and nitrous oxide.) One 2011 experiment in particular, during which a group of 52 University of Texas undergraduate students were told that they had tested positive for a bogus medical condition known as “TAA [thioamine acetylase] deficiency,” produced some interesting results adding to that body of evidence.
The experiment’s findings were, essentially, that subjects with higher testosterone levels responded to increased threat levels or anxiety-inducing situations with “cooler heads” while those subjects with lower testosterone were more prone to panic (this follows on the heels of similar experiments, in which administered testosterone lowered test subjects’ anxiety over threats of electrical shock.) In short, common perceptions of high-testosterone males as being either bolder or more ‘fearless’ seem to have plenty of grounding in objective truth.
It is safe to conclude here that testosterone deficiency can be harmful to all kinds of human functioning – not merely those of an athletic or sexual nature. The popular denunciation of “performance enhancement” and steroid administration unfairly targets those who may need to increase their hormonal defenses against the types of lethal conditions listed above.