When discussing men’s health, the topic of testosterone levels is all too often the main focus of the conversation. What most people fail to realize is that there are many hormones affected by aging and a multitude of factors that contribute to healthy hormone levels in men. Age is an inevitable factor in our lives but we can choose to live our best lives by having optimal hormone health and making healthy lifestyle choices that support healthy hormone levels.
I often have men come and see me who say that their doctor checked their hormone levels and that they are “normal.” But they still have all the symptoms and signs of hormonal decline. This is where we begin the conversation on what’s “normal” and what’s “optimal.” So, what’s the difference between a normal hormone level vs. an optimal level? Normal means simply that your level of any given hormone is in the range that is considered to be normal by the lab. This range is determined by taking a sampling of the general population and calculating a range based on that. An optimal level is the level where most men feel their best and have the best health outcomes. So I ask my patients: “Do you want to be “normal” or do you want to be “optimal”?
The reason why hormones like testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH) have sometimes received bad press over the years is that many men abuse these substances by taking dosages that are much too high, resulting in levels that are neither normal nor optimal. As a result of this, negative side effects can emerge and will ultimately harm the body in the long term.
The Carragher Method is an age management program that specializes in achieving optimal hormone health. Take a look at six common factors that impact hormone levels in men and learn about the Carragher Method today!
Before We Start, What Are Optimal Lab Ranges?
Has your doctor ever come back with your lab results and told you everything was fine and your labs were “normal”? Medical professionals have almost always held that symptoms like fatigue, poor sleep, sluggish recovery from exercise, and lackluster libido are “normal” parts of aging. Lab tests that measure hormone levels seem to back up those claims that you’re “normal” and “healthy” but health is not merely the absence of disease and these men often do not feel normal.
Laboratories usually report their findings in numerical values, and there is a normal range assigned to those numbers. Many clinicians only glance to see if test results are abnormally high or abnormally low and ignore everything within the normal range.
Let’s take testosterone levels, for example. The normal range for testosterone for an adult male is usually somewhere between 300 to 1200 ng/dL (nanograms (ng) per deciliter (dL)). If your testosterone falls anywhere within this range, you are technically “normal.” But let’s say your testosterone levels were 1200 ng/dL one year and next year it fell to 300 ng/dL…that is definitely not normal!
Diet and Exercise
Unsurprisingly, your routine diet is the most obvious factor that contributes to your general health – testosterone included. Lets first cover what you should be consuming: fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, certain types of shellfish, ginger root, cherries, lean red meats, avocado, some tree nuts, tomatoes, brown rice, milk, yogurt, eggs, and leafy green vegetables have shown promise in improving overall hormone levels in men.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to affect testosterone synthesis in men, so foods such as fish, shellfish, tree nuts, milk, yogurt, eggs, and some leafy green vegetables are good choices to start with. Notice that foods rich in omega-3 overlap in benefitting testosterone production in the testes. This isn’t a coincidence!
A healthy lifestyle starts first with a healthy diet. Foods to avoid are any foods high in sugar, saturated fats, processed foods, and foods high in sodium. Sugary foods can be found in almost every grocery aisle and can throw your optimal lab ranges out of balance. They affect the hormones insulin, testosterone, human growth hormone, DHEA, cortisol, and others.
Which came first, fatigue and sedentary lifestyle or suboptimal hormone levels? These correlate with each other and bring about a chicken-or-the-egg philosophical question. Low hormone levels – or high, depending on the hormone – can lead to fatigue, lack of motivation, and obesity; on the flip side of that coin, obesity could be an indicator of suboptimal hormone levels.
Speaking of throwing optimal lab ranges out of balance, alcohol consumption has been known to impact multiple hormone levels and excess drinking should be generally avoided. Heavy consumption of alcohol doesn’t only affect your hormone levels, it affects your overall health and can lead to common problems in men such as high blood pressure, weakened immune system, liver problems, erectile dysfunction, and dementia. Alcohol should always be consumed in moderation for a healthy lifestyle.
Medications and Drugs
There are a host of medications and therapies that can help achieve optimal hormone health in men. Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and testosterone are two common medications that are used to optimize hormone levels in men. While there are many testosterone and HGH “boosters” available for use over the counter (OTC), these are usually not effective and may even be dangerous. Prescription-strength medications are typically used for age management programs.
Of course, there are also certain drugs that can negatively impact your hormone balance. For example, nicotine, some antidepressants, chemotherapy, statins, and other over-the-counter medications can lower testosterone levels. It is important to disclose any current medications to your doctor to avoid any drug interactions.
Injury or Trauma
The testes produce testosterone, so it is important to note that testicular trauma can harm your overall testosterone levels. When participating in contact sports, it can be common to receive accidental injury or trauma to the scrotum. To protect against this, it is advisable to wear an athletic cup.
Head injuries are also common in sports. Blunt head trauma like concussions can affect the pituitary gland in the brain, which can affect HGH, thyroid, testosterone, and other hormone levels, sometimes permanently. Wear a helmet!
Testosterone and Metabolism
Hormone levels play an important role in the body’s metabolism. For example, fat, protein, and carbohydrates are all impacted by testosterone and HGH, and deficiencies in testosterone or HGH can increase fat mass and raise cholesterol levels. When hormones like thyroid, testosterone, HGH, DHEA and others decline, your body’s metabolism begins to slow. This is because lower hormone levels mean fewer receptors are stimulated. Certain hormone receptors work in tandem with muscle cells in protein synthesis. Less hormone means less androgen reception, which means less protein synthesis, which means lower overall metabolic performance.
Early Warning Signs and Aging
As we age the hormone levels we like to be higher (testosterone, HGH, DHEA, thyroid, pregnenolone, Vitamin D) begin to decline and the hormone levels we like to be low (insulin, cortisol) tend to rise. This is sometimes referred to as age-related hormonal decline. In the case of testosterone alone, this is called andropause or “male menopause”. While there is a multitude of variables that can impact hormone levels in men, aging is one variable that we need to account for.
Age is a factor that compounds declining hormone levels, which is why it is important to be proactive about managing hormone levels rather than being reactive.
Another thing that can happen as we get older is that our bodies become less efficient at attaching our hormones to the receptors (this is typically referred to as receptor level hormone resistance). So while you may have “normal” hormone levels in the blood, those hormones aren’t doing their magic. So we need to supplement with additional hormone replacement.
Let’s Recap: Why is Optimal Better?
The truth is your hormones should be in at least the top 1/3 of the normal range for your age group for the hormones you want high and the lower 1/3 for the hormones you want low. When it comes to hormones, men who have optimal hormone levels typically feel better, perform better, have less body fat, have better libidos, and are generally stronger and more fit. Not to mention they’re at a significantly lower risk for virtually all the chronic degenerative diseases of aging.
Achieving optimal hormone health and increasing the quality of life is the goal of age management medicine. Optimal hormone health requires a carefully curated program that is more extensive than just taking HGH or testosterone. The Carragher Method of age management accounts for hormone resistance and focuses on individual hormone health, not the “normal” or average male patient.
Visit the Carragher Method to learn more and start living your best quality of life today!