Among men, testosterone levels can vary greatly throughout life. Generally, most men reach peak levels of testosterone during puberty and then experience yearly declines with aging. Over the course of a 24-hour period, men can experience substantial rises and falls in their testosterone levels, affected by activity level, food, and sexual activity, among other things. These factors make pinpointing normal testosterone levels a complex matter—meaning testosterone level testing should be completed, assessed, and monitored by a trained and experienced physician.
How is testosterone level testing performed?
Testosterone levels can be tested with a simple blood draw and are measured using the unit, nanogram per deciliter (ng/dl). There are three types of testosterone that most physicians will observe on a blood test: free testosterone, SHBG-bound testosterone, and albumin-bound testosterone. Using these numbers, your physician will also calculate your total testosterone. In general, each of these numbers will be compared to a standard range of “normal” for your age; however, your doctor should take other factors into consideration before making any recommendations. Remember testosterone is affected by a number of lifestyle factors and there is a distinct difference between “normal” and “functional.”
What is a normal, healthy testosterone range for men?
Generally speaking, normal testosterone levels fall between 360 ng/dl to slightly above 1000 ng/dl. However, many observational studies have suggested that levels below 650 ng/dl should alert doctors to further assess a patient’s needs. Men with a testosterone level below 650 ng/dl may be experiencing symptoms that typify low testosterone, such as depression, fatigue, increased weight gain, and reduction in muscle mass and bone density. In these cases, testosterone level testing may need to be assessed again because, as previously mentioned, testosterone levels can rise and fall throughout the day and be influenced by a variety of daily activities.
For most men, testosterone levels are highest in the morning and fall slightly as the day goes on. Younger men aged 18 to 25 will have much higher testosterone levels than men in their 40s or 50s. Most studies have found that men experience steady declines of one to two percent per year, beginning in their late 20s to early 30s.
How do I know if I need testosterone therapy?
The standard range is just that—a “standard” range. Those numbers do not take into account the factors that your physician should carefully discuss with you and consider when reviewing your case. Falling into the range of “normal,” but experiencing symptoms of low testosterone is an indicator that something is off for you, as an individual person. Symptoms can be as mild as moodiness or low energy or as obvious as hypogonadism, weight gain, and muscle loss. Your physician should take all these factors into account to determine if testosterone therapy is right for you.
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