Study after study has shown how traditional medicine continues to get the facts wrong on supplementing testosterone for men with naturally low levels of the hormone. It is discouraged by most of the medical community who believe it is "unnatural" and puts men at risk for disease.
Why is taking care of your health "unnatural"? If you had a broken arm, would you go have it set, or would you leave it dangling to "naturally" repair by itself? The most recent scientific studies prove that men who don't treat their testosterone deficiency are the ones at risk for a very naturally occurring disease: death.
A few weeks ago I was invited to appear on the CBS "Sunday Morning" news program, and I was followed by a doctor who did not support testosterone replacement therapy for men. He cited the only study that exists that takes issue with testosterone replacement therapy, which was published in 2010 in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. Yet he forgot to mention the details of this study -- and why it is irrelevant for most men.
The study agrees that testosterone supplementation has been shown to increase muscle mass and strength in healthy older men. The goal of the study was to determine whether this same therapy could yield similar benefits for those who were already infirm. The study was performed on -- and designed for -- men in an assisted living community who had high rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and hypertension, and substantial limitations in mobility.
The study concluded that the small size of the trial (only 209 participants of which only 104 received testosterone gel) and the uniqueness of their existing illnesses should prevent any broad conclusions about the safety of testosterone therapy for other populations of men. For this elderly and sick group of men, the study did find that there was a slight increase in the number of adverse cardiac events within the test group.
And what happens if your testosterone is low? The study pointed out that there have been other disease studies that have shown that low testosterone levels are an independent risk factor for death from cardiovascular and other causes. In fact, at the end of my book, "The Life Plan," I list more than 50 independent studies that have been published over the past 10 years that support the importance of hormone replacement therapy for men who have low levels of testosterone.
You can naturally increase your own testosterone through diet, nutritional supplements and exercise. But when these options are not enough, I believe that natural hormone supplementation is the only way for men to stay healthy as they age.
So what should you watch out for? The first signs of declining levels of testosterone are: diminished energy levels, increased irritability, decline in mood, decline in cognitive performance and loss of early morning erections.
At this point many of you might be thinking, "well Dr. Life, those are just the signs of aging." But they aren't. I believe that you don't have to get sick as you get older. And you certainly don't have to live with a declining sex life. While decreased libido and erectile quality are often the symptoms most frequently connected with falling testosterone levels, they are actually some of the last to occur, which means that by the time you're worrying about your libido, the rest of your health has already suffered.
Men with "low t" have a 33 percent greater death risk over their next 18 years of life compared with men that have higher levels of testosterone. Low testosterone also puts men at risk for debilitating conditions caused by osteoporosis, such as hip fractures. In addition to declining bone density, "low t" is linked with muscle loss.
Testosterone replacement therapy has been linked with a host of health benefits. It has been connected with the reduction of coronary artery disease (CAD) and hypertension risks, as well as with improving cardiac function in patients with preexisting heart disease. Some older men treated with testosterone have shown decreases in total cholesterol and the "bad" LDL levels. Testosterone is associated with keeping your thinking sharp, lowering dementia risk and decreasing symptoms of depression, anxiety and panic disorders. It sounded good to me eight years ago, and I still think it's the way to go for guys who can benefit from it.
Five years after winning the 1998 Body-for-LIFE contest, I was beginning to gain body fat and lose strength -- even though I was still eating clean and exercising vigorously. Then I was introduced to the Cenegenics Medical Institute and realized that my testosterone levels were at the bottom of the normal reference range. My age management physician started me on testosterone therapy and I've never looked back.
Within two months, I began feeling a remarkable change: more strength, better muscle mass, improved sexual function, higher energy levels, reduced cholesterol, good blood sugar control, clearer thinking and a renewed zest for life. I know that there's no way I could accomplish all that I do today at 72 without correcting my hormone deficiencies, eating healthy and exercising right.
Now you might be thinking, "Dr. Life, you do look great, but I don't need to be so buff; I just want to be healthy." And my answer to you is simple: testosterone is NOT the reason I am so fit. I exercise religiously and follow a very clean -- almost vegan -- heart-healthy diet. But I can tell you that without correcting my deficiency, I wouldn't have the energy to exercise as much as I do.
You might want to find out if you have "low t" like I did. I must also emphasize that only a skilled, experienced physician who monitors blood testosterone levels and performs digital rectal exams along with PSA tests to screen for prostate cancer, should administer your testosterone therapy. In my mind, these few tests are well worth feeling better and protecting my health.
So discuss your current health status with your doctor and bring him or her into the 21st century. And if they still have questions about testosterone therapy, have them call me.
Jeffry Life, M.D., Ph.D., has a thriving age management medicine practice in Las Vegas, Nevada. His book, "The Life Plan," published by Atria Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, is available wherever books are sold. For more information, visit his website at www.drlife.com or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.