Testosterone depends on a number of factors – body composition, overall health, and lifestyle come to mind. But perhaps the most important determinant for testosterone concentration is age: depending on how old we are, our T levels tend to rise and fall accordingly.
But how do our levels of testosterone rise and fall based on our age? Take a closer look at the relationship between aging and testosterone, and you can see why it might be worth finding ways to optimize your hormone levels as you get older.
How Does Testosterone Help You Grow?
As a growth hormone, testosterone levels naturally rise and fall according to the ages at which we experience the most bone, muscle and hair growth. But what does testosterone do to facilitate growth?
Testosterone is an androgen, which promotes protein synthesis by binding to androgen receptors, sending them instructions to generate tissue. Testosterone can have both anabolic and androgenic effects:
- Anabolic: growing muscle and bone mass, increasing strength and bone density
- Androgenic: development of primary and secondary sex characteristics, such as sex organs, growth of facial and underarm hair, and more.
Depending on your testosterone levels at each stage of development, these anabolic and androgenic effects will change in intensity. Let’s look at how they manifest themselves in each stage of life.
Testosterone in Childhood
According to Harvard Medical School, the largest spike of testosterone levels in a man’s life occurs during puberty when a surge in gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) results in a large spike in testosterone production.
This is when the androgen does most of its major work – stimulating bone and muscle growth, producing red blood cells, and facilitating the beginning of sexual function and reproductive capability.
Most young men reach their highest levels of testosterone production at age 17, producing approximately six milligrams of testosterone per day.
Testosterone in Your Twenties
For most men, testosterone levels in your twenties tend to stay at approximately the same levels as they did during puberty, allowing men to maintain strong body composition and high sexual function at roughly comparable rates.
However, some men in their twenties may experience an early onset of andropause, in which testosterone levels severely diminish to far lower rates than most other men. This is characterized by symptoms including reduced sexual function, higher fat mass, lower muscle mass, gynecomastia, and more.
Testosterone in Your Thirties
For those men who maintain healthy testosterone levels through their twenties, their thirties is when they usually start to experience some slight drop-offs in testosterone production. While many men will keep roughly the same testosterone levels in their thirties as they had during their twenties, for some T levels will gradually drop off at a rate of about 1% per year, on average.
Testosterone in Your Forties and Beyond
While some men will naturally produce the same levels of testosterone even as they get older, most men start to experience at least a gradual dropoff of testosterone by age 40. Even then, this drop is typically the same 1% per year on average, which is barely perceptible to many men in their forties.
However, by the time men reach their fifties, sixties and older, those gradual decreases in testosterone production can add up. Following this 1% per year metric, men who reach age 70 often have testosterone levels 30% below when they were at peak production.
Granted, most men still maintain at least 75% of their testosterone levels into old age, with many men having the ability to father children as late as their eighties.
Aging and Low T
|AGE||TOTAL T (mg/dL)||FREE T (mg/dL)||BIOAVAILABLE T (mg/dL)|
While these findings are, on the whole, encouraging – even as you get older, your testosterone production may not diminish by much – the prospect of low T is still a cause for concern.
Low T, or low testosterone, can occur in men of any age, but typically happens to men after they reach their forties or later. This is known as late-onset hypogonadism (LOH), characterized by all the same symptoms of early-onset low T mentioned earlier.
Some sufferers of LOH may see T levels drop to merely 20% of their peak testosterone production, resulting in significant impact to their health and wellness. This is often caused by illness or debility, risk factors that can increase with age and have a marked effect on testosterone levels.
Aging, Memory, and Testosterone
Another attribute that tends to change with age due to testosterone loss is mental function. Learning is slowed, and we tend to process new information less carefully, leading to less retention of details and diminished capacity to keep new data in our minds for longer periods of time.
While findings are still inconclusive, some research indicates that there might be a link between lowered testosterone and the mental deficits experienced in the aging process. Low testosterone levels are often found in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment, for instance.
Harvard Medical Center has pinpointed several studies that have found strong correlations between higher testosterone levels and the preservation of brain tissue, as well as higher overall cognitive performance. What’s more, having higher levels of bioavailable testosterone was implicitly linked to lower risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Given the connection between testosterone and aging, it would benefit more men to understand where their testosterone levels fall in relation to their age and to take steps to address any shortfalls they may experience.
If you find yourself suffering from low testosterone, regardless of your age, it may be prudent to consult with a wellness professional to determine whether testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is right for you.
We Can Help
Hormone therapy regimens like these should only be undertaken under strict medical supervision. Contact us to schedule a consultation to see how TRT might help you mitigate the effects of aging.
This content was reviewed by Dr. Gary Kawesch. Dr. Kawesch graduated from Yale University, getting his degree in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. He then got his medical degree at the UCLA School of Medicine. He completed his internship in internal medicine at USC’s Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, and his ophthalmology residency at the UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute. For over 18 years, Dr. Kawesch was one of the foremost ophthalmic surgeons in the US and has consulted with and was a team doctor for seven professional sports teams in California. He continues to work with the Oakland Raiders. He trained with the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine and helps men increase their vitality, lifespan and overall healthspan.