(CNN) – In my practice I have noticed that a growing number of younger boys complain about sexual problems, such as reduced libido and erection problems, more often in older men.
Some doctors think that factors such as obesity, stress and insufficient sleep are likely to play a role in these problems. This is not just a lifestyle problem; These factors are also possible causes of low levels of the hormone testosterone, which can affect sexual function.
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Low testosterone is even more common in older men. Known as the "male menopause" or andropause, this gradual decrease in testosterone generally occurs steadily over time. In fact, "after the age of 40, men experience a 3% reduction in testosterone every year," said naturopathic doctor Geovanni Espinosa. "After the age of 60, about 20% of men experience andropause."
According to some estimates, the average man of 80 years will have about 50% less testosterone than when he was young. As a result, men can experience problems such as insomnia, weight gain, reduced muscle and bone density, anger and depression, as well as reduced libido and other sexual problems.
That said, low testosterone is not necessarily just a consequence of aging. Several factors can affect a man's testosterone levels, as Espinosa writes, one of the contributors to the new book "Integrative Sexual Health," edited by Dr. ir. Andrew Weil. The book notes that many factors influence sexual health, including state of mind, energy level, nutrition, genetics, age, health status and medicines.
An option for low testosterone is prescription replacement testosterone replacement therapy, but this approach can have disturbing side effects, such as reduced sperm production and reduced testicles. "Testosterone, like all hormones, has multiple actions on many body functions and in mind," Weil said. "In my opinion, it must be taken and prescribed, only to correct a documented deficiency through appropriate blood tests."
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Otherwise Weil advises "an integral approach to sexual health" that evaluates all factors that influence testosterone.
Exercising cardiovascular endurance, such as marathons, actually reduces the production of testosterone. On the other hand, increasing the weight with large muscles such as those in the legs and back can increase the testosterone. "Weights and squats are excellent for this purpose," said Espinosa.
"Any diet that promotes obesity and insulin resistance lowers testosterone, because fat cells act like a sponge, so that testosterone is absorbed and becomes less available," explains Dr. Ronald Hoffman, who is the book chapter on diet and testosterone.
"For maximum testosterone production some carbohydrates are needed, but preferably slowly metabolized from fruit with a high fiber content, vegetables, whole grains and legumes," Hoffman said.
Sleep and stress
Better sleep hygiene is important for optimal testosterone levels, most of which occur during sleep between 5 and 7 a.m. in the morning. Espinosa recommends to close all electronic devices after 8 or 9 hours. because the blue light that they emit can disturb sleep.
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Taking a hot shower, keeping the room comfortable and setting the room temperature to 21 degrees can also help improve sleep and practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation.
Men who have been diagnosed with low testosterone levels should consider discussing certain supplements with their doctor, Espinosa said. He points out that vitamin D and zinc play an important role in the production of this hormone, while herbs are ashwagandha and rhodiola can also be useful.
Not all sexual health problems go back to low levels of testosterone, but I think it's worth it to be tested if you think it could affect your sex life. In younger men, a normal testosterone level of between 270 and 1030 nanograms per deciliter is considered.
Because most doctors have no control over the levels in young men, most men are not sure if they experience symptoms that may be directly related to low testosterone levels as they age. That is why it may be worthwhile to make a reference now so that you know what is normal for you.
– Ian Kerner is a therapist, writer and contributes with CNN in the field of sex.