Here’s where your levels should be, how to know when your T levels are off and how to test your hormones.
Everyone—male and female—has testosterone. It’s an important hormone to the health of any humans, but it’s vital to help men develop in appearance and sexually. Produced dominantly in the testicles of men, testosterone plays a vital function in preventative functions, such as helping control your fat levels, cholesterol, and glucose levels. While testosterone production in men peaks in your teen years, it remains high until your mid-thirties, when your testosterone levels start to decline, at the rate of one to two percent per year. As to what determines your testosterone levels, that’s a combination of your age, your genetics, and your pre-existing medical conditions. A younger male with healthy genes and no chronic ailments will have a higher testosterone level than an older male with ongoing medical issues. We can walk you through what you need to know about your testosterone levels, including how to test your T levels now.
Where Should Your Testosterone Levels Be?
“To determine what’s a good T level, you also need to look at the clinical picture,” says Dr. Danielle McDevitt, a physician who specializes in hormones and works with Hone. “By that, I mean how you, the patient, are feeling. Younger patients who have a sedentary lifestyle, who aren’t athletic and out running marathons; they don’t need a high level of testosterone. If you’re 50 and doing triathlons, you’ll need higher levels.”
Why You Need Good Testosterone Levels
Dr. McDevitt says all men need an adequate level of testosterone, as it “helps control our lipids, cholesterol, and glucose. Testosterone also helps protect your bones from osteoporosis; it helps keep bones strong and prevents them from erosion. Lastly, it helps protect the brain against dementia and memory loss. If your testosterone is within a good range, you’re more sharp; you’re thinking more clearly.”
“When you lose hormones as you age, you’re going towards pre-diabetic, your cholesterol will rise,” says Dr. McDevitt. “We tend to blame this on poor diet and lifestyle choices — which can definitely be a large factor. But if you’re pretty healthy, you adhere to a plant-based diet with a little protein mixed in, and you’re still seeing medical conditions like prediabetes creep up, we then start to look at where your testosterone levels are. Or when your thinking isn’t as sharp. I see patients often who say they’re having a hard time with emails and texts, unable to shoot off answers to simple questions with ease. That’s when we start to check your hormone levels.”
What Are Normal T Levels?
Your testosterone is measured in terms of nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). At its peak, during your teen years, your testosterone should be anywhere between 300 and 1,200 ng/dL. When you’re entering your mid-thirties, you’ll start to see it declining by at least one percent per year.
“After 35 years old, it’s true that we see hormones start to drop,” says Dr. McDevitt. “But we are now seeing a lot of young patients with low T, which is due to environmental factors, like more plastic leaching PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) into your body where these elements resemble estrogen, but also teens don’t get enough sleep, they have more stress. Many military patients, with a rougher lifestyle, their T drops faster than normal aging. I have men who i see who live a healthy lifestyle in their fifties who have the levels of a man in his thirties.”
Clinically, hypogonadism, or low testosterone, is defined as having a level of 200 ng/dL for two readings, a threshold often used by insurance companies to determine whether treatment could be covered. However, Dr. McDevitt says you’ll want to be around the 300 ng/dL benchmark.
“You’ll be feeling all of the symptoms of low testosterone at 200 ng/dL,” she says. “People with levels around 200 would feel awful. You’d be barely able to function with that. You’d not be sleeping well, you’d have no sex drive, you’d be fatigued, you’d have no muscle mass, you’d have uncontrolled glucose levels and more.”
People often ask whether 500 ng/dL is a good level, and the answer from Dr. McDevitt is that it depends on you. “500 can be a good T level for people with a sedentary lifestyle, because they don’t require tons of T. But if you’re very athletic, you’ll need more than 500 ng/dL,” she says.
Testosterone Levels By Age Chart
The Average Levels of Testosterone, By Age
According to one endocrinology study,  the average male who reaches 70 years old will have testosterone production that’s 30 percent below the peak. Per that particular study, the ranges of recorded T levels in men can vary widely, though they do indeed decline in all men after the age of 40:
“252–916 ng/dL: Testosterone levels of men in their 40s
215–878 ng/dL: Testosterone levels of men in their 50s
196–859 ng/dL: Testosterone levels of men in their 60s
156–819 ng/dL: Testosterone levels of men in their 70s”
“It’s so hard to say where ‘average’ is for your age, since it can depend on so many criteria,” says Dr. McDevitt. “Many of these studies take an amount of people across these ages and test them for their T levels; they don’t have a lot of the existing conditions factored in, nor their lifestyles, which can skew the results.”
If You’re At 200 ng/dL, Is That a Problem?
If you feel fine, the number itself is not an issue. But the likelihood is you’ll have other symptoms, which would indicate it’s definitely time to consult with a doctor. Make sure your doctor is qualified to talk about hormone testing and treatment, as a lot of primary care doctors aren’t heavily trained in this topic in medical school and prefer not to address it with patients. At Hone, our team of doctors that see you during your consultations are all specialists with a deep understanding of how hormones — and how hormone replacement therapy — works.
Why Does Your T Change With Age?
“Think about women going through menopause,” says Dr. McDevitt. “Their ovaries are slowing down. The same thing happens to men; it’s called andropause. It’s normal to have your levels decrease. The organ says ‘I did my job. I gave you the hormones to become an adult and to reproduce’ and they start to slow down. The nice thing is that we don’t have to experience the negative symptoms that come with aging — we can optimize things and feel good.”
What Is Considered Low T?
As mentioned above, clinically hypogonadism, or Low T, is defined by having two tests of 200 ng/dL or less. “What I’ve noticed in my patients,” says Dr. McDevitt, “is that anyone in the 400s will start to exhibit symptoms of Low T.”
Those symptoms can include:
Having trouble focusing or concentrating
Losing muscle mass
Having trouble sleeping and constantly feeling tired
Some hair loss
Reduced ability and stamina when playing sports and exercising
A lower libido
“Honestly, a low libido is one of the least heard symptoms,” Dr. McDevitt says. “The main things I hear are patients saying they’re not sleeping well, their brain feels foggy, and their stamina is down. They used to come home and want to hang out and do things, and now they just want to sit on the couch or they fall asleep. Their mojo is gone.”
Accompanying the weight gain is muscle loss, and the inability to perform workouts to the same levels as before, but also seeing fewer results from the same workouts. Lastly, anxiety can be a surprising symptom. “Guys tell me they feel a little anxious, which is completely new,” says Dr. McDevitt. “Testosterone has a mood stabilizing effect, so as it decreases, anxiety can arise.”
What Is Considered High Testosterone?
Just like it can be too low, your testosterone can also be too high, and that’s equally problematic. When your testosterone levels are getting into the 1,000 up to the 1,500 ng/dL range — and staying up there — that’s too high. Though you may feel great in the short term, in truth, you’re doing more harm than good.
“Your body will start converting excess testosterone into estrogen to help compensate,” says Dr. McDevitt. “Estrogen is a proliferative hormone, meaning it likes to get cells to grow. Too much estrogen in a male body is not a good thing; it can cause erectile dysfunction, or low libido. It can strain the heart, and it can cause other muscles and ligaments damage. If you think about bodybuilders who are doping, they always have injuries and this is why. It’s just too much.”
Too much testosterone can also cause hypertension, or high blood pressure. It’ll cause the red blood cells to overproduce which can, in turn, create a clot in your blood vessels. You want smooth blood flow, so an increase in red blood cells could easily cause stagnation. In addition to these, you also run a higher risk of cancers, a higher risk of cardiac complications, and you’re more likely to be irritable and hot-headed.
How Do You Test for Low Testosterone?
You used to have to go to the doctor’s office, or to a clinic that specializes in hormone evaluation. Now, thanks to Hone’s at-home testing kit, testing your hormone levels has never been easier or more discreet. Our simple kit gets mailed to your home and uses a few drops of blood to test for a wide range of biological markers, that are crucial to understanding your hormonal levels. Those biomarkers include:
Sex-hormone binding globulin
To learn more about what testing your testosterone at home is like with our Hone kit, we’ve got all that information for you right over here.
How Often Should You Test Your Testosterone?
Generally, annually. Conventional medicine only tests your testosterone if you’re experiencing symptoms of low testosterone, so it won’t be a regular thing. However, once you’re in your late 20s, you’ll want a baseline to compare against as you age. Even if you don’t have any issues, it’s still good to test annually. If you are experiencing any symptoms as described above, you should definitely get your hormone levels checked.
If you’re found to have low testosterone and are recommended a clinical course of treatment, commonly called testosterone replacement therapy, then you’ll need to keep testing during your treatment regimen. The frequency matters as there’s a time frame that your body needs to balance everything out. During the ramp up, you should expect to test every 90 days until your levels get to a good therapeutic state, as determined by your doctor and how you feel. Clinically, if you’re doing well and your doctor agrees that your levels are within good ranges, then you’ll want to test every six months.
Does What Time You Test Your T Matter?
Yes. Your testosterone is higher in the morning, so that’s the best time to test. However, when you’re undergoing TRT, some people test to determine the peak amount of testosterone, and some people try to grab the trough. We want to see the morning before the incremental dose of testosterone to see the trough, but it’s good to know the peak, which is anywhere from 24 to 48 hours after the dose, so you know how high it’s getting.
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