1. Testosterone improves fertility.
False. Testosterone, particularly at the levels commonly used by athletes for performance enhancement, can effectively sterilize a man and cause his testicles to shrink and become soft.
2. Being overweight has nothing to do with testosterone levels.
Wrong. Extra fat on the body acts like a sponge, taking testosterone out of the blood and reducing libido, energy and other male-related characteristics. This is particularly true if the fat is carried around the belly or abdomen. Fat carried on the thighs or buttocks has less testosterone-draining effects.
3. Men can raise their testosterone levels by exercising vigorously.
The relationship between testosterone and exercise is complicated. Yes, moderate exercise can raise testosterone levels somewhat, but if exercise is extreme, testosterone levels can actually drop. It’s also true that low testosterone makes it harder to exercise, which can lead to a vicious cycle of inactivity and reduced hormone levels.
4. Male mid-life crises have nothing to do with testosterone.
I believe that many times when men say they are bored with their careers, their wives, or their general lot in life, they are actually suffering from low testosterone. I call this phenomenon “menoporche” because I’ve seen guys who think buying a hot new car will give them a shot of sex appeal or attractiveness, when, in fact, they would be much better off getting their testosterone level checked.
5. Testosterone supplements are safe because they have to be approved by the FDA.
Wrong. In fact, as of this writing, the government does not regulate the sale or use of products containing compounds that get converted into testosterone. Testosterone or testosterone precursors should only be used under a doctor’s supervision and testosterone levels should only be raised to normal levels.
6. Low testosterone causes depression.
True, but that’s just half the story. Most men don’t know that depression, or depressed mood, can lower their testosterone levels. Since many men don’t recognize signs of their own depression, or are reluctant to seek help treating depression, this is a significant problem for millions of men. Sometimes restoring testosterone levels can also alleviate symptoms of depression – and sometimes alleviating the depression with psychotherapy and/or antidepressant medications can raise testosterone levels.
7. Erection-enhancing medications (such as Viagra) work whether a man has normal testosterone levels or not.
Studies show that erection-enhancing medications work best in men with testosterone levels in the normal range. Testosterone provides the necessary urge to have sex that erection-enhancing drugs cannot provide.
8. Testosterone therapy is really just a form of cosmetic pharmacology – it’s just something middle-aged men try to make themselves feel young.
Wrong. Testosterone replacement for men of any age who have below-normal levels is a valid medical treatment for a condition with clear potential to degrade overall health and well-being. Failure to treat hypogonadism puts men at higher risk for frailty, osteoporosis, heart disease and, perhaps, Alzheimer’s disease.
9. Low testosterone is only a problem for old men.
False. Certainly the older you are, the more likely you are to have low testosterone, but this condition can affect any man, even teenagers. Conditions such as varicoceles, undescended testicles, and certain genetic problems can cause below-normal testosterone levels which need to be diagnosed and corrected as quickly as possible.
10. The only way to boost testosterone levels is with shots.
Several options are now available for testosterone replacement therapy, some of which work by coaxing the body to increase testosterone levels naturally rather than by dumping testosterone directly into the bloodstream one way or the other.