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Testosterone Levels by Age

Robert Bergen
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Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone, but both sexes produce it. Levels fluctuate by age — peaking around puberty and then gradually declining after the age of 30. 

Are you experiencing low energy, perhaps even a decreased sex drive? It may be that your testosterone levels are running low. 

Let’s shed some light on testosterone levels by age, answering all your burning questions. 

Table of Contents  

What Does Testosterone Regulate in a Man’s Body?

Testosterone is the sex hormone behind the male sex drive, but it also helps with bone mass, muscle mass, strength, and fat distribution. Testosterone even has a hand in the production of sperm and red blood cells [1]

Why Does Testosterone Decrease With Age?

 
Levels of testosterone decrease as we get older. This decline is caused by a mix of testes failure (primary hypogonadism), and secondary hypogonadism (hypothalamic-pituitary axis failure) [2]

Primary hypogonadism is when the testicles are underactive. Age is not the only cause, below are three more predisposing factors:

  •   Undescended testicles. 
  •   Hemochromatosis — too much iron in the blood.
  •   Klinefelter’s syndrome — when a man has three sex chromosomes.

Primary hypogonadism may also occur following injury:

  •   Physical injury in both testicles. 
  •   Cancer treatment.
  •   Mumps orchitis — a mumps infection.

Secondary hypogonadism can be triggered by several other factors:

  •   Obesity.
  • Concurrent illness — for example, severe emotional or physical stress following an injury, surgery or illness. 
  •   Medications.

Secondary hypogonadism can also arise from an inherited condition or disease, such as:

  •   Kallman syndrome.
  •   HIV/AIDS.
  •   Inflammatory diseases.
  •   Pituitary disorders. 

At What Age Do You Start Losing Testosterone?

When exactly testosterone levels begin to decrease varies between individuals. Some men may not experience a noticeable decline until they are 80, sometimes older. 

However, for the general male population, levels start to decline at around 40 [3]. The decline is gradual, only about one percent every year.

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What Influences Normal Testosterone Levels?

The testicles produce roughly 95 percent of a man’s testosterone under the control of the Luteinizing hormone (LH) [4]. Testosterone levels may also be influenced by:

The Body’s Ability to Metabolize Testosterone

The body metabolizes testosterone in the liver, where it is transformed into testosterone glucuronide and testosterone sulfate.  However, in certain instances, the body may metabolize less testosterone, which could lead to lower levels. 

  How Fast You Clear Testosterone From Your Body

Some men clear testosterone from their bodies quicker than others. This may be due to less active testicles or other conditions, such as obesity. 

  The Number of Gonadotropins

Gonadotropins are hormones that work to stimulate testosterone production. If you have less of these hormones, your body may not produce as much testosterone.

  Quantity of Binding Proteins Available

A big percentage of testosterone is tightly bound by a protein called SHBG — sex hormone-binding globulin. If your body has less SHBG, it could put a dent in your testosterone production. 

What Are Normal Testosterone Levels by Age?

The body begins producing testosterone during the embryonic stage in the womb. Throughout gestation, levels fluctuate in both boys and girls but remain slightly higher in the males [5]. Medical professionals measure testosterone in nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl.)

Let’s break up the normal ranges of this hormone by age:

Infants and Children

Throughout the infant stage and early childhood, we’ll see significant fluctuations in the hormone’s production. 

Age Testosterone Levels
From 0 to five months Boys produce anywhere between 75 to 400 ng/dl. Girls, however, produce between 7 to 20 ng/dl.
Age 10 to 11 years Boys will produce less than 7 to 130 ng/dl, whereas girls will create less than 7 to 44 ng/dl.
Age six months to nine years Both boys and girls produce less than 7 to 20 ng/dl.

Adolescents

In adolescence, we see a spike in the boys’ hormone production. Here’s the breakdown:

Age Testosterone Levels
Age 12 to 13 years Boys will have a testosterone level between 7 to 800 ng/dl. Girls, on the other hand, only produce between 7 to 75 ng/dl.
From 14 years Boys produce 7 to 1,200 ng/dl. Girls produce 7 to 75 ng/dl.
From 15 to 16 years Boys produce about 100 to 1,200 ng/dl, whereas girls produce 7 to 75 ng/dl.

Adulthood

Once we reach adulthood, production slows down, particularly in women. 

Healthy levels may look like:

Age Testosterone Levels
Age 17 to 18 years Males have a testosterone level between 300 and 1,200 ng/dl. Females keep it steady at 20 to 75 ng/dl.
From 19 years and up A normal testosterone range for men is between 240 and 950 ng/dl. Women, on the other hand, only produce between 8 to 60 ng/dl.

What Level of Testosterone Is Considered Low?

Doctors diagnose low testosterone when levels fall below 300 nanograms per deciliter in adult men [6]. However, you may not experience any deficiency symptoms until it falls below 200 to 100 nanograms per deciliter. 

What Are the Symptoms of Low Testosterone?

Because this hormone helps regulate various parts of the body, symptoms of a testosterone deficiency vary. Low levels may lead to:

  •   Reduced muscle tone. 
  •   Fragile skin.
  •   Reduced sex drive.
  •   Hair loss — on face and body.
  •   Disturbed mood. 
  •   Issues with memory and concentration. 

What Does It Mean When a Man Has Low Testosterone Levels?

When you have low testosterone, it could mean a chronic or genetic disease. Sometimes, a problem in the pituitary gland. [7]

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Can I Have High Testosterone Levels?

In adult men, high testosterone is anything over 900 ng/dl. It’s usually due to the use of anabolic steroids, like what bodybuilders and athletes use to improve their performance [8]

What Are the Symptoms of High Testosterone Levels?

Men with high testosterone levels may experience some of the following:

  • High sex drive.
  • Headaches.
  • Aggressive or risk-taking behavior/mood swings.
  • Acne.
  • Increased body hair.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Heart or liver problems.
  • Insomnia.
  • Infertility.
  • Low sperm count.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Swelling in the legs and feet.
  • Unexplained weight gain.
  • Prostate enlargement. 

What Does It Mean When a Man Has High Testosterone Levels?

High amounts of testosterone may indicate a tumor in the adrenal glands or testicles [9]

How Often Should I Take a Test for Testosterone Levels?

Your doctor may check your testosterone once in a while, or when you exhibit concerning symptoms. If they discover that your levels are low, your doctor will likely ask you to get tested every three to six months [10]

When testing your testosterone levels, the best time is the morning between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. The levels are usually higher in the morning, giving the best indication. 

What Kind of Tests Are There?

Testosterone is present in the bloodstream, so to test the levels, your doctor requires a blood sample. There are two kinds:

  •  Total testosterone: This test checks the total amount of the hormone present in your blood, both free and attached to a protein [11].
  •  Free testosterone: This measures only the free testosterone present in the blood. It’s useful for providing information about other medical conditions. 

Which Therapy Is Best for Treating Low and High Testosterone?

 Treatment for Low Testosterone Levels

If you have low testosterone, your doctor will likely recommend testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). It’s generally applied either through injections, gels, or patches. TRT should help restore energy, increase your muscle mass and improve your sexual function [12]

 Treatment for High Testosterone Levels

Treating high testosterone may require a different approach. There isn’t some pill you can take; rather, it’s about making lifestyle changes; this includes stopping the use of anabolic steroids. 

If the surge in levels is due to a tumor, your doctor may recommend surgery. 

What Men Should Not Use Testosterone Therapy?

If you’re healthy, you shouldn’t use testosterone therapy. It could lead to a range of adverse effects, and it won’t necessarily prevent low testosterone in the future [13] Undesirable side effects may include:
  •   Enlarged breasts.
  •   Acne.
  •   Limited sperm production.
  •   Testicle shrinkage.
  •   Increased risk of heart-related diseases. 

What Is the Connection Between Steroid Use and Testosterone?

Steroids are a synthetic form of testosterone [14]. You may take steroids to treat a muscle-wasting illness. Bodybuilders take steroids, or anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), to increase muscle mass and strength.

Conversely, when taking steroids, you’re increasing the testosterone in your body. That can increase your risk of heart attacks, behavioral issues, and even decrease testosterone production over time [15]

Testosterone Levels and Women

Although testosterone is an androgen, i.e., a male sex hormone, it plays an important part in women’s health, too. 

In women, it helps with reproductive health, growth, and maintenance of a healthy body. Women produce testosterone in the ovaries, fat, skin cells, and the adrenal glands [16]

Women produce a lot less testosterone than men. Still, low or high levels can still affect the female body.

Low levels of testosterone — lower than 15 nanograms per deciliter may lead to:
  •   Fertility problems.
  •   Breast tissue changes.
  •   Missed or irregular periods.
  •   Low sex drive.
  •   Vaginal dryness.
High levels in women — more than 70 nanograms per deciliter can result in:
  •   Acne.
  •   Blood sugar issues.
  •   Infertility.
  •   Lack of menstruation. 
  •   Excessive hair growth — particularly on the face.
  •   Obesity.
  •   Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Treating either high or low testosterone levels in women usually requires treating the underlying cause. Testosterone therapy isn’t ideal for women, so medical advice is essential [17]

The Takeaway

Testosterone is a crucial sex hormone produced by both men and women. It helps regulate our reproductive health and energy levels, among other bodily functions. 

Too much or too little can lead to adverse effects, like mood swings, low or high sex drive, and infertility. 

Luckily, testosterone level tests are quick, treatment is readily available, and there are plenty of testosterone enhancers to choose from. If you enjoyed our article, you could also find interesting our research about how to increase testosterone naturally.

We hope that you found our guide helpful. Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

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References

  1. Understanding How Testosterone Affects Men, by Harrison Wein, Ph.D. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/understanding-how-testosterone-affects-men#:~:text=Testosterone%20is%20a%20sex%20hormone,estradiol%2C%20a%20form%20of%20estrogen. 
  2. Age-Related Testosterone Decline is due to Waning of Both Testicular and Hypothalamic-Pituitary Function, Aging Male. 2015; 18(3): 201–204, 15.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4816459/#:~:text=Age%2DRelated%20Testosterone%20Decline%20is,Testicular%20and%20Hypothalamic%2DPituitary%20Function&text=Aging%20Male. 
  3. Aging and Declining Testosterone: Past, Present, and Hopes for the Future, J Androl. 2012 Nov-Dec; 33(6): 1111–1118 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4077344/
  4. Physiology, Luteinizing Hormone, Daniel Nedresky; Gurdeep Singh. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539692/ 
  5. Physiology, Testosterone, George N. Nassar; Fernando Raudales; Stephen W. Leslie. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526128/
  6. Diagnosing and managing low serum testosterone, Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2014 Oct; 27(4):321–324. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4255853/
  7. Male hypogonadism: Symptoms and treatment, J Adv Pharm Technol Res. 2010 Jul-Sep; 1(3): 297–301. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3255409/
  8. Anabolic steroids abuse and male infertility, Basic Clin Androl. 2016; 26: 2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4744441/
  9. Total testosterone levels are often more than three times elevated in patients with androgen-secreting tumours, BMJ Case Rep. 2015; 2015: bcr2014204797., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4307073/
  10. Diagnosing and managing low serum testosterone, Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2014 Oct; 27(4): 321–324. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4255853/#:~:text=Testosterone%20levels%20should%20be%20monitored,patches%20(11%2C%2013).
  11. Testosterone Levels Test https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/testosterone-levels-test/
  12. The benefits and risks of testosterone replacement therapy: a review, Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2009; 5: 427–448. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2701485/
  13. Former Abusers of Anabolic Androgenic Steroids Exhibit Decreased Testosterone Levels and Hypogonadal Symptoms Years after Cessation: A Case-Control Study, PLoS One. 2016; 11(8): e0161208. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4988681/
  14. Anabolic Steroids, https://medlineplus.gov/anabolicsteroids.html
  15. Anabolic Steroid Use Disorder, Sanad AlShareef; Srinivasa B. Gokarakonda; Raman Marwaha, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538174/
  16. Revisiting the role of testosterone: Are we missing something?, Rev Urol. 2017; 19(1): 16–24, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5434832/#:~:text=In%20men%2C%20estrogen%20from%20this,of%20sperm%20and%20libido%20maintenance.&text=In%20women%2C%20testosterone%20and%20its,for%2050%25%20of%20total%20secretion.
  17. Effects of testosterone therapy for women: a systematic review and meta-analysis protocol, Syst Rev. 2019; 8: 19., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6329173/

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