Think of testosterone and almost always images of bearded, muscular men come to mind. We tend to associate it primarily as a hormone found in men. But testosterone is an equal opportunity hormone as it is found in both men and women playing a vital role in each gender.
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is an androgen hormone produced by the adrenal cortex, and also by the testes in men and the ovaries in women. For both men and women it helps to regulate sex drive and libido, brain functions, bone mass, muscle mass and strength, and fat distribution. When either sex is experiencing low testosterone, it can manifest itself as brain fog, decreased muscle mass, irritability, depression, osteoporosis, erectile dysfunction, and low sex drive.
Testosterone levels in men and women
To check if a man or woman has adequate levels of testosterone, a blood test is necessary. There are two kinds of testosterone found in blood:
1. Free testosterone also known as free T – This kind is not chemically bound to anything else
2. Bound testosterone – This makes up the majority of total testosterone levels. Around 98 percent of testosterone in the blood in bound to one of two proteins – albumin or sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG).
A doctor will look at both free and bound testosterone and total the levels. With testosterone, the levels will vary throughout the day with the morning being when it is at its highest and is lower in the evening.
General values include:
For a male age 19 or older:
· Testosterone total should be between 240-950 ng/dL
· Free testosterone should be between 9-30 ng/dL
For a female age 19 or older:
· Testosterone total should be between 8-60 ng/dL
· Free testosterone should be between 0.3-1.9 ng/dL
What is the role of testosterone in women?
Most people associate testosterone as a male hormone, but it actually plays an important role in women’s bodies. The hormone is produced in the female body in the ovaries and the adrenal glands. For all women, testosterone plays a vital role in bone strength, brain function, and the overall development of lean muscle mass and strength. It can also give a general sense of well-being and higher energy levels. A crucial component of why women need some testosterone is for maintaining a woman’s libido or sex drive. If testosterone levels are not adequate in women, their vitality and sense of well-being can diminish.
High levels of testosterone in women can lead to:
· Facial hair
· Male pattern balding
Low levels of testosterone in women can lead to:
· Disrupted sleep
· Weight gain
· Reduced libido
· Irregular periods
· Anorgasmia or the inability to have an orgasm
What is the role of testosterone in men?
The main sex hormone in men is testosterone and like stated earlier, it is necessary for bringing on the physical changes turning boys into men. These physical changes include growth of the penis and testes, growth of facial, pubic, and body hair, deepening of the voice, building muscles mass and strong bones, and helping a man achieve his adult height.
Together, the brain and the pituitary gland which is a small gland at the base of the brain, control the production of testosterone by the testes. From there, testosterone moves through a man’s body doing its work. Testosterone levels can change from hour to hour with the highest level occurring in the morning and the lowest at night.
High levels of testosterone levels in men can lead to:
· Early puberty
Unless a man is receiving testosterone or other steroid treatments, the problem of too much testosterone is not common. But it could result in:
· Men consuming more alcoholic beverages
· Men more likely to smoke
· Some men may be more likely to participate in risky behaviors such as sexual, injury risk, and even criminal activity.
Low levels of testosterone levels in men can lead to:
· Reduced sex drive
· Weak erections or inability to achieve one
· Low sperm count
· Enlarged or tender breasts
· Reduced energy levels and stamina
· Decreased muscle and bone strength
· Diminished mental aggressiveness
· Weight gain