Low testosterone – what is it and what are the signs?

October 14, 2022

The warning bells aren’t just between the sheets. They include unusual tiredness, man-boobs and an increase in ‘blank brain’ moments. Professor Geoff Hackett explains.

Sure, testosterone is crucial for super-charging your sex drive and building muscle.

But receptors for the hormone actually exist throughout your body, from your brain to your bones to your blood vessels.

So if you’re low on T, the health consequences could extend far beyond the gym and the bedroom.

The symptoms below aren’t proof of low levels on their own, but they can provide a handy early warning system before you see your doc for an official diagnosis.

In many trials, low testosterone levels have been shown to be associated with increased risk of dying at all ages, and a three to four times greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The good news? The health effects of low T levels can be improved, or even reversed, with testosterone therapy.

So what are the signs that yours could be low?

Feeling strangely unsexy?

Perhaps the best-known, quickest, and most common effect of low T is low libido.  Besides wanting less sex, men with low T may also masturbate less and report fewer fantasies and erotic dreams.

Brain areas involved with sexual desire, including the amygdala, are packed with testosterone receptors.

The hormone fits inside these brain areas like a lock inside a key, lighting them up to arouse you. Without it, you’re missing a critical step in the turn-on process.

This lack of desire to have sex can cause problems with erections, though low T doesn’t directly affect the plumbing involved in getting or staying hard.

signs of low testosterone

Shrinking biceps?

Ample testosterone puts your body in an anabolic, or muscle-building, state by helping your body produce and assemble proteins that form the building blocks of lean mass.

When your testosterone levels drop, your body turns catabolic instead. That means it breaks down muscle tissue instead of building it up.

At first, you might notice that it’s tougher to push as much weight at the gym or build muscle. And after a few weeks of low T, you can expect to lose muscle mass.

In fact, in one Japanese study, men with low free testosterone levels — a measure of the amount of hormone available to bind to receptors — had double to triple the risk of muscle loss with aging as those with normal levels.

Missing manhood?

Without a steady flow of testosterone, the tissues in your penis, scrotum, and testicles can atrophy, or shrivel.

Though testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) won’t bring back your testicular volume, when it comes to your penis, the treatment has a good chance of restoring its former glory.

According to a study in the Indian Journal of Urology, testosterone therapy in boys with a ‘micropenis’ – yes, that’s a medical term – can increase their size by up to an inch and a half.

signs of low testosterone

‘Man boobs’ in the mirror?

It’s a double whammy – low T causes you to lose muscle for your gun show, and for your belly to swell with ‘biologically active visceral fat’.

This fat forms deep around your organs and increases your risk for diabetes and heart disease, as well as hammering your testosterone levels.

Visceral fat turns on an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which drives circulating building blocks called lipids into visceral fat cells, plumping them up. The result, your belly gets fatter.

Blank brain?

Your grey matter can be hit as hard as your guns.  One 2015 Australian study found men whose testosterone levels declined over five years also experienced a drop in scores on tests of their mental function and memory.

Your brain has key hormone receptors which need testosterone to function fully. Notably, the areas important for memory and attention, such as the cerebrum, and the amygdala, your centre for emotions and motivation.

Blue Monday?

Along with ED and piling on the pounds, low T can have a direct effect on your mood.

According to research in *The Endocrine Journal*, 23 percent of young men with newly diagnosed low testosterone met the criteria for depression, compared to only five percent of young guys with normal levels of the hormone.

Empty testosterone receptors in the brain areas linked to mood are likely responsible for your depressed state.

What’s more, mood disorders like depression or anxiety can kick off a vicious cycle — depression can suppress your testicles’ ability to produce testosterone, worsening the problem.

Breaking up?

While it’s often aging women in the headlines for suffering weaker bones, men can get hit, too.

Bone’s a living tissue, constantly rebuilding – when testosterone levels fall, your bone breaks down faster than it can be built.

Result? You’re at higher risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

signs of low testosterone

Dodgy ticker?

Your heart can be hit by falling T levels, according to research.

According to a study in the journal Circulation, men with low testosterone had a greater risk of dying from heart disease than men with normal levels.

The theory is testosterone can help open up blood vessels to the heart, allowing blood to flow more freely.

But on the flip side, some studies have suggested that testosterone replacement therapy might actually increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. This is especially in older men or those with existing heart conditions.

Experts think it may thicken the blood, making a clot more likely.

Don’t be shy

According to a large international study, the three biggest pointers to falling testosterone levels are:

  • reduced interest in sex
  • loss of early morning erections
  • and ED.

These issues men are typically reticent to bring up with their doc through embarrassment.

A common scenario is that the doctor then wrongly assumes the man would have mentioned these symptoms if he was worried about them. They then fail to check his testosterone levels, then misdiagnoses him as being depressed.

The doctor then wrongly prescribes an antidepressant, which makes the three major symptoms worse.

Remember – you only have one life, and your doctor needs to know the whole story so they can help you.

If you’re not keen on talking to your doc, open up to your Peppy practitioner on chat – its anonymous and they can signpost you on getting help.

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