CHICAGO April 10, 2013 - Frequently when you hear the word “testosterone,” someone is referring to a person who has too much or not enough of the hormone. Pointing out an individual has an over abundance suggests he or she is acting aggressive, highly libidinous, or bulking up. A lack of testosterone implies some form of wimpy-ness.
While our usual references to this hormone are based on fact, testosterone serves us in other significant, surprising ways that are not common knowledge. You could say testosterone has a secret night life, but it is our mind that is in the dark about this hormone’s lesser-known activities.
This means that when our testosterone levels are too low, we are at risk for more health problems than we might realize. For instance, the strength of our bones and an adequate red blood cell count require a sufficient supply of testosterone.
Testosterone’s Connection to Red Blood Cells
Testosterone is necessary for the production of red blood cells, called erythropoiesis (i rith row poy ee sis). Erythro refers to red blood cells (RBC) and poiesis means “to make.”
When the kidneys detect that our oxygen level is low, they release a hormone called erythropoietin. The erythropoietin rides the blood stream to our red bone marrow. There, it instructs the marrow to get busy producing RBCs from the stem cells that reside there. Newly formed RBCs squeeze their way into blood capillaries, putting themselves in circulation and allowing us to breathe easier.
Testosterone works to increase the production of erythropoietin, and it enhances the response of immature bone marrow cells to the erythropoietin. So, testosterone increases the potency and efficacy of the hormone (erythropoietin) that stimulates the manufacture of RBCs.
Testosterone and Bone Density
It is nearly common knowledge that low bone density, or osteoporosis, can be caused by a deficiency in the hormone estrogen. However, testosterone influences bone density as well, in men and women.
Osteoblasts are cells that manufacture new bone tissue. Osteoclasts are cells that act like garbage disposals for old bone minerals. There are receptors, or docking stations, for testosterone on both osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Testosterone seems to enhance the reproduction of osteoblast cells, and increases the lifespan of both osteoblasts and osteoclasts.
Testosterone also promotes long bone growth and ossification, the maturing of cartilage cells, new bone formation after an injury, and the assimilation of calcium into bone.
Testosterone in the Balance
Young women who are in good health produce 300 micrograms of testosterone each day. If the production is inadequate, a woman can experience a lethargic libido, fatigue, low mood, and a declining sense of well-being.
Men with less than 300 nanograms of testosterone per deciliter are considered “low T” or testosterone deficient. This can lead to a reduced sex drive, erectile dysfunction, loss of muscle mass, depressed mood, fatigue, increased body fat, facial or body hair loss, and osteoporosis. Low testosterone in men is also associated with type 2 diabetes.
Too much testosterone in our system is naturally a concern as well. High testosterone might indicate cancer of the ovaries or testes, androgen resistance (males develop the sex characteristics of females), or congenital adrenal hyperplasia (male characteristics develop either unusually early or abnormally). High testosterone has also been linked to heart disease.
If you suspect your testosterone level may be too low or high, see your physician. A hormone imbalance can mimic or be mistaken for many other health issues.
Androgen and bone mass in men, at http://www.asiaandro.com/archive/1008-682X/5/148.htm
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