Many men experience declining sex drive as they age — and physiology is a factor. Testosterone, the hormone that boosts sexual desire, sperm production, bone density, and muscle mass, peaks at about age 30.
Men might experience less interest in sex as the level declines, or not be able to sexually perform as well as they would like. A dip in sexual interest can cause depression and could damage important intimate relationships. It’s natural to want to do something about it.
Take a look at the research if you’re wondering if using testosterone therapy can help improve your sex drive.
Testosterone and estrogen are the main sex hormones. Both men and women produce testosterone, but men make more. Women produce more estrogen than men.
Testosterone makes male sex organs grow when boys are developing. It also supports male physical attributes such as facial hair growth, broader shoulders, and denser muscle development.
Sexual excitement is caused in part by a rise in testosterone, though other factors contribute. Testosterone levels rise and fall throughout the day. Some men notice they are more excitable when testosterone is high, which is usually in the mornings.
Testosterone levels also fluctuate over your lifespan and start to decline after age 30. This could mean a man has less interest in sex later in life, and possibly less firm erections as well as softer muscle tone.
According to Mayo Medical Laboratories, the following represent the average ranges of testosterone:
|Age range (years)||Lower limit of testosterone (ng/dL)||Upper limit of testosterone (ng/dL)|
|25 - <30||5.05||19.8|
|30 - <35||4.85||19.0|
|40 - <45||4.46||17.1|
|50 - <55||4.06||15.6|
|60 - <65||3.67||13.9|
|70 - <75||3.28||12.2|
|80 - <85||2.88||10.5|
This shows that the average level of testosterone decreases about 8 percent every 10 years, or 16 percent every 20 years.
Aside from aging, there are several other causes that can result in lowered testosterone. They include:
- injury to the testicles
- cancer treatment
- pituitary disorders
- HIV or AIDS
- inflammatory diseases, such as sarcoidosis or tuberculosis
- testicular tumors
Other causes of low sex drive
While low testosterone is a common cause of low sex drive in men, there are a variety of other possible causes.
Psychological causes can contribute or cause low libido in men. These include anxiety, depression, stress, or relationship problems.
In addition to low testosterone, there are a variety of other physical causes that can result in a decreased sex drive. Some of these physical causes include:
- taking medications such as opiates, beta-blockers, or antidepressants
- being overweight
- having a chronic illness
Your doctor can help you determine what’s causing your low libido. And they may recommend counseling if they believe psychological factors are contributing to it.
According to the Mayo Clinic, testosterone therapy can help treat hypogonadism. This condition occurs when the body can’t produce enough testosterone on its own. However, it’s unclear whether supplements can help. A study published in Nature Reviews Endocrinology found no scientific reason to prescribe testosterone to men over 65 years of age with normal or low to normal testosterone levels.
In fact, testosterone supplements might cause more problems than they solve. Studies have suggested a connection between supplements and heart problems. A 2010 study reported in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that some men over age 65 had an increase in heart problems when they used testosterone gel. A later study of men younger than 65 at risk for heart problems and heart-healthy older men showed that both groups had a greater risk of heart attack when taking testosterone supplements.
A 2014 study in rats concluded testosterone supplementation was a “strong tumor promoter for the rat prostate.” Human studies are needed.
Like other supplements and medication, testosterone therapy comes with risks and possible side effects. This is particularly true if you try to take it for normal aging rather than for treatment of a condition. Also, the Cleveland Clinic points out that the effects that these supplements may have on your heart and prostate can lead to a number of potential issues. Complications include:
- sleep apnea
- acne flares
- enlarged breasts
- testicular shrinkage
Testosterone therapy isn’t for everyone, and there are natural remedies available that you can try. You can also try the following:
- Get enough zinc, which one study has found to be essential in regulating serum testosterone levels in men. Zinc can be added to the diet with more whole grains and shellfish, or through supplements.
- Get enough potassium, which aids in testosterone synthesis. Potassium can be found in foods like bananas, beets, and spinach.
- Get more exercise, which naturally increases testosterone.
- Reduce the amount of sugar you consume.
- Get more sleep.
- Reduce the stress in your life or learn stress management techniques.
Talk about it
There can be many reasons for a decrease in sex drive, for both men and women. Decreasing testosterone levels could be the source for men, but so could life stresses or relationship problems.
Testosterone supplements likely will boost sex drive in cases of very low testosterone and hypogonadism, but research suggests that’s about it.
Ask a doctor for testosterone testing to determine if supplementation will help.