Testosterone, the ornery male hormone, is now unexpectedly implicated in the risk of dementia.
Let’s put that in English: you know what Alzheimer’s is, right? It’s one type of dementia, which is basically the loss of brain function — to remember things, to recognize people, to think.
Now, about Testosterone. It a hormone manufactured in the body that affects a host of areas and functions — physical and mental:
- Depression (some people taking depression meds may simply suffer from low testosterone — this needs to be checked)
- Metabolism and fat processing (you know that weight gain in middle age?)
- Hair growth and loss
- Muscle mass
- Bone density
- Joint pain
- Libido and erectile dysfunction
- Sperm production
- Aggressive/competitive behavior (excessive testosterone levels are associated with indulgence in risk taking behavior including criminal acts)
Is there a link between excessive levels and domestic violence?
There are also ongoing studies relating testosterone levels with heart health, but nothing conclusive at this time.
One of the treatments for prostate cancer is reduction of testosterone levels to reduce tumor growth. This approach is called androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). However, the new research shows that persons receiving this therapy are twice as likely to develop dementia as patients not receiving this therapy.
If reduction in testosterone in this patient group doubles the chance of dementia, what about the rest of us who might develop low testosterone naturally? (For example, I’m below the normal range for testosterone without any therapeutic help.)
The problem is that males lose testosterone with age. Most see the loss starting at age 40, but some see it as much as 10 years earlier. One sign may be the need for a larger belt.
Routine blood tests do not include a check for testosterone level, although it is a very inexpensive test to run. (One doctor referred to it as a $9 test.) However, if you are using antidepressants or erectile dysfunction meds and the problem really is testosterone, finding out could save you a lot of money and wasted time.
Getting treated for the wrong problem usually isn’t effective.
Therapy involves application of a skin cream or a patch. If the cream is used (I prefer it), females need to avoid contact with the cream and the area to which it is applied.
If you think you are seeing physical or behavioral changes in yourself or in a loved one, this is one of the items that needs to be checked.
The doctor usually won’t think to check it without being asked.
- Davis, Charles Patrick, MD, PhD, “High and Low Testosterone Levels in Men,” http://www.medicinenet.com/high_and_low_testosterone_levels_in_men/views.htm
- Nead, Kevin T., et. al. “Association Between Androgen Deprivation Therapy and Risk of Dementia” JAMA Oncology, 2016; DOI: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.3662
- Pietrangelo, Ann. “The Effects of Testosterone on the Body,” Healthline, 21 April 2014. http://www.healthline.com/health/low-testosterone/effects-on-body