CARLSBAD, Calif. – If you think women are the only ones who go through a mid-life hormonal change, known as menopause, think again. Men experience a very similar change, only instead of hot flashes and night sweats, they have muscle and memory loss.
As men age they lose testosterone, the hormone responsible for muscle mass, energy and a healthy libido, according to family physician Dr. Michael Woo-Ming. It’s called “Low-T” and more and more men are being treated for it.
A few years ago, Dr. Woo-Ming opened a practice specializing in age management and one of his most popular treatments is for low testosterone.
“What we found out with the lack of testosterone is that men were coming in with more belly fat, having a difficulty recovering from workouts, memory loss and a lower sex-drive,” Dr. Woo-Ming said.
Luis Keys, 44, fit the bill perfectly when he came into see Dr. Woo-Ming.
“I had been weight lifting for a little over 15 years and I noticed I wasn’t able to recuperate from my workouts as quickly as before. I also noticed my muscularity and definition were gradually disappearing and that my energy levels were lower,” he said.
A blood test is the only way to truly diagnose low testosterone. Keys had his blood tested and found out his levels were lower.
He now receives weekly testosterone shots supplemented by a B-12 shot.
“Immediately within the first two weeks, I remember I was at the gym and I felt so much stronger,” Keys said. “My energy levels were higher and I definitely had more focus and clarity, not just at the gym but when I was at school.”
Low-T therapy is still relatively new and there haven’t been extensive studies on the long-term health effects. A recent study by the federal government found older men with a history of heart disease, who take testosterone supplements, have a higher risk of heart attack.
Dr. Mitchel Goldman has also seen younger men and even women abusing the hormone.
“Many people think if they just take testosterone, they’re going to have big muscles. For them however, it can be dangerous and it doesn’t work,” said Dr. Goldman. “The reason a dermatologist sees this is because patients will come to us with acne and it’s far outside what we would see for that age group.”
Women who take testosterone will develop larger muscles, but they may also grow more body hair and even see enlarged genitals, according to Dr. Goldman.
Testosterone is available in the form of a gel or cream and only with a prescription. Some patients, like Keys, opt for an injection, when they are very low on the hormone. Topical testosterone can rub off on other people if it’s not fully dry and then transfer the hormone.
For Keys, the benefits outweighed the side effects and potential long term consequences.
“I remember thinking, ‘wow, I feel like I was back in my late 20s early 30s. I love this, I love this feeling,” said Keys.