Testosterone levels generally peak during adolescence and early adulthood. As you get older, your testosterone level gradually declines — typically about 1 percent a year after age 30 or 40. It is important to determine in older men if a low testosterone level is simply due to the decline of normal aging or if it is due to a disease (hypogonadism).
Before assessing the evidence of testosterone’s action in the aging male it is important to note certain methodological considerations which are common to the interpretation of any clinical trial of testosterone replacement. Many interventional trials of the effects of testosterone on human health and disease have been conducted. There is considerable heterogenicity in terms of study design and these differences have a potential to significantly affect the results seen in various studies. Gonadal status at baseline and the testosterone level produced by testosterone treatment in the study are of particular importance because the effects of altering testosterone from subphysiological to physiological levels may be different from those of altering physiological levels to supraphysiological. Another important factor is the length of treatment. Randomised controlled trials of testosterone have ranged from one to thirty-six months in duration (Isidori et al 2005) although some uncontrolled studies have lasted up to 42 months. Many effects of testosterone are thought to fully develop in the first few months of treatment but effects on bone, for example, have been shown to continue over two years or more (Snyder et al 2000; Wang, Cunningham et al 2004).
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).
Both testosterone and 5α-DHT are metabolized mainly in the liver. Approximately 50% of testosterone is metabolized via conjugation into testosterone glucuronide and to a lesser extent testosterone sulfate by glucuronosyltransferases and sulfotransferases, respectively. An additional 40% of testosterone is metabolized in equal proportions into the 17-ketosteroids androsterone and etiocholanolone via the combined actions of 5α- and 5β-reductases, 3α-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, and 17β-HSD, in that order. Androsterone and etiocholanolone are then glucuronidated and to a lesser extent sulfated similarly to testosterone. The conjugates of testosterone and its hepatic metabolites are released from the liver into circulation and excreted in the urine and bile. Only a small fraction (2%) of testosterone is excreted unchanged in the urine.
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"Some say it's just a part of aging, but that's a misconception," says Jason Hedges, MD, PhD, a urologist at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. A gradual decline in testosterone can't explain a near-total lack of interest in sex, for example. And for Hedges' patients who are in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s and having erectile problems, other health problems may be a bigger issue than aging.