Back in November, I showed you why postmenopausal women should consider taking testosterone. Now there’s more evidence women should consider this fantastic hormone.
According to a recent study, low testosterone levels could affect women in significant ways. Women in general do have much lower levels of testosterone than men do. But when women's levels drop below the norm for their gender, issues may occur, just as they do when any other hormone gets out of balance. The problem is, researchers aren't quite sure just what that norm is.
To help draw attention to this issue and eventually correct it, researchers conducted a study of female mice. Some of the mice had normal androgen receptors, meaning that their androgenic hormones, which include testosterone, were functioning normally. The other mice didn't have proper androgen receptors, which means that their androgens were not able to work. Those with androgen receptors were doing just fine, but those with missing receptors suffered. They were obese, had high levels of fat in their blood, and were prone to atherosclerosis.
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When the researchers gave the female mice the androgens they needed, they lost weight, and their atherosclerosis improved. This doesn't necessarily mean that testosterone supplementation should be the next weight-loss craze for women. But it does indicate that women, not just men, are sensitive to fluctuating testosterone levels.
This makes a lot of sense to me. Just because women have low levels of testosterone to begin with doesn't mean they won't notice its absence if it drops or disappears altogether. In fact, I find that women thrive on testosterone. Their strength, endurance, mood, energy levels, and sexual function often dramatically improve. The only side effect I ever see is acne and hair loss. This happens in about one out of every 30 women. Both of these problems reverse themselves once the testosterone is discontinued or the dose reduced. If a woman has a history of either hair loss or acne I always start off with lower doses just in case.
Hormones play a significant role in the aging process, and the more we know about them, the better we'll be able to manage them to maintain optimal health. In this case, testosterone may play a significant role in both weight management and cardiovascular health for women. If you feel that your hormones are affecting you, talk to your doctor — and make sure he or she evaluates all of your hormones, not just estrogen and progesterone.
As with most hormones, blood tests and "normal" levels don't tell the full story. If you have symptoms of low testosterone, your doctor should prescribe it for you to see if the symptoms disappear. If they do, you know you were low.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
J. B. Fagman, A. S. Wilhelmson, B. M. Motta, C. Pirazzi, C. Alexanderson, K. De Gendt, G. Verhoeven, A. Holmang, F. Anesten, J.-O. Jansson, M. Levin, J. Boren, C. Ohlsson, A. Krettek, S. Romeo, A. Tivesten. The androgen receptor confers protection against diet-induced atherosclerosis, obesity, and dyslipidemia in female mice. The FASEB Journal, 2014; 29 (4): 1540 DOI: 10.1096/fj.14-259234.