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Vitamin D deficiency is a growing epidemic in the US, and is profoundly affecting men’s health. The cholesterol-derived steroid hormone vitamin D is crucial for men’s health. It plays a role in the development of the sperm cell nucleus, and helps maintain semen quality and sperm count. Vitamin D can also increase your testosterone level, helping improve your libido. Have your vitamin D levels tested using a 25(OH)D or a 25-hydroxyvitamin D test. The optimal level of vitamin D is around 50 to 70 ng/ml for adults. There are three effective sources of vitamin D:
A blood test may not be enough to determine your levels, because testosterone levels can fluctuate during the day. Once you determine that you do have low levels, there are a number of options to take. There are synthetic and bioidentical testosterone products out on the market, but I advise using bioidentical hormones like DHEA. DHEA is a hormone secreted by your adrenal glands. This substance is the most abundant precursor hormone in the human body. It is crucial for the creation of vital hormones, including testosterone and other sex hormones.
In order to discuss the biochemical diagnosis of hypogonadism it is necessary to outline the usual carriage of testosterone in the blood. Total serum testosterone consists of free testosterone (2%–3%), testosterone bound to sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) (45%) and testosterone bound to other proteins (mainly albumin −50%) (Dunn et al 1981). Testosterone binds only loosely to albumin and so this testosterone as well as free testosterone is available to tissues and is termed bioavailable testosterone. Testosterone bound to SHBG is tightly bound and is biologically inactive. Bioavailable and free testosterone are known to correlate better than total testosterone with clinical sequelae of androgenization such as bone mineral density and muscle strength (Khosla et al 1998; Roy et al 2002). There is diurnal variation in serum testosterone levels with peak levels seen in the morning following sleep, which can be maintained into the seventh decade (Diver et al 2003). Samples should always be taken in the morning before 11 am to allow for standardization.
The reasons for considering such therapy become evident from the many associations, indicated above, that reduced testosterone has with a variety of both physiological functions (bone metabolism, muscle mass, cognitive function, libido, erectile function) and pathophysiological states (metabolic syndrome, diabetes mellitus, obesity, insulin resistance, autoimmune disease). Although a definitive long-term, large scale placebo-controlled double-blind study of testosterone therapy in the aging male has not yet been carried out, multiple shorter-term trials have suggested improvement by testosterone with a resultant enhancement of muscle mass, bone density, libido, erectile function, mood, motivation and general sense of well-being.
Before the ready availability of non-injectible testosterone preparations, and because of their ease of administration by the oral route, 17-alkylated steroids were popular surrogate agents for testosterone. These substances, however, were capable of inducing several risk factors for coronary artery disease (Kopera 1993; Hall and Hall 2005) and as a consequence, particularly after the revelations of extensive 17-alkylated anabolic steroid abuse by athletes, testosterone, became unjustly incriminated. The evidence, however, tends to suggest just the opposite; testosterone may even be cardioprotective. Dunajska and colleagues have demonstrated that when compared to controls, men with coronary artery disease tend to have: lower total testosterone levels and free androgen indices, more abdominal fat, higher blood sugar and insulin levels (Dunajska et al 2004).
The diagnosis of late-onset hypogonadism requires the combination of low serum testosterone levels with symptoms of hypogonadism. Questionnaires are available which check for the symptoms of hypogonadism. These have been validated for the assessment of aging patients with hypogonadism (Morley et al 2000; Moore et al 2004) but have a low specificity. In view of the overlap in symptoms between hypogonadism, aging and other medical conditions it is wise to use a formal method of symptom assessment which can be used to monitor the effects of testosterone replacement.