As we’ve talked about many times before, testosterone is vital to your health as a man and contributes to bone health, cardiovascular health, immune system function, cognition and lipid health (cholesterol markers), among other things.
If your testosterone is low, not only will it affect your health, but it’s likely you’ll have many unpleasant symptoms. This includes depression, anxiety, low sex drive, mood swings and loss of muscle mass.
Therefore, if you care about your health it makes sense to take a test to find out what your testosterone level is. This is especially true if you have some of the symptoms described above.
Low testosterone is associated with a number of conditions, including metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis. Indeed, this has even led some researchers to suggest that testosterone can be used as a marker of overall health .
In this article we’ll cover the main ways you can get your testosterone levels checked.
Taking a serum or blood test really is the gold standard when it comes to checking your testosterone levels and this is the way we at Balance My Hormones test your testosterone levels. It’s by far the most accurate way to measure your hormones.
Ideally, if you do a blood test, you should look to get the following markers at a minimum, we at Balance My Hormones check all of these and more.
– Serum testosterone
– Free testosterone
– Sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG)
– Luteinising Hormone (LH)
So what do these markers mean and why do you need them? When first looking into this, many people assume they need to only get their testosterone levels checked.
This is misguided however, as testosterone alone will not give you a clear indication of your hormonal health. It’s important for the doctor to understand the interplay between various hormones to make a proper diagnosis.
Serum testosterone is the total amount of testosterone in your blood. Free testosterone is the bioavailable or active component of testosterone. Your body can only use a small fraction of the testosterone in your blood – usually between 2-4% of the total amount.
SHBG is a carrier protein that is responsible for managing levels of sex hormones (i.e. oestrogen and testosterone) in the blood. Its levels have a strong correlation with your testosterone and can influence the amount of free testosterone in your blood.
For example, you may have a high serum testosterone level, but if your SHBG is very high this means your free testosterone will be low. Without this marker you cannot accurately calculate your free testosterone.
Luteinising hormone (LH) is a hormone also known as a gonadotropin. Essentially, LH is a signal that is sent by the brain to the testes to produce testosterone. It’s useful to test for this because it helps show whether you have primary or secondary hypogonadism.
Oestradiol is a form of oestrogen and the main one found in the male body. Many people wrongly believe that oestrogen is a “female hormone,” however it plays a vital role in male health. In addition, elevated levels of oestrogen can interfere with testosterone production and lead to symptoms of low testosterone. Hence it is important to include this marker on any investigation into testosterone.
The role of the hormone prolactin in men is not fully understood. However, low and high levels are associated with low libido and erectile dysfunction. Furthermore, the hypersecretion of prolactin is associated with a tumour of the pituitary gland. This can affect testosterone levels and is therefore worth evaluating on a blood test.
A urine test, also known as a 24 hour urinary panel, is also another good option to get your testosterone levels checked. Urine tests are a lower barrier to entry than drawing blood out of your arm.
A good thing about these tests is that you can do them from the comfort of your own home. Although these days, you can often do serum tests at home too.
One main advantage of the urine test is that it takes an average of your testosterone levels over a 24 hour period. Whereas a blood test is a snapshot of a given moment in time and is open to day to day fluctuations.
The downside of urine tests however, is that often it doesn’t always correspond to levels of testosterone in the blood. Because it only measures hormones once they’ve been metabolized by the liver. In addition, a urine test can only test for free testosterone and not total testosterone – as this is only possible with a blood test.
A urine test is probably not suitable for you if you want an accurate test of your testosterone level. It can be useful however to measure stress hormones such as DHEA and cortisol. Though that’s beyond the scope of this article.
In recent years, saliva testing kits have become popular among doctors and patients alike.
Home-testing saliva kits are marketed as cheap alternatives to urine and blood tests. However, their accuracy in comparison to other tests is debatable.
As far as we’re concerned, there are a few drawbacks with saliva testing:
– Food and drink can influence the test and cause abnormal readings
– It’s difficult to collect enough saliva for a sample – especially when over 40
– Certain medications and drugs can skew the results
Suffice to say, we don’t recommend taking a saliva test to get an accurate reading of your testosterone levels.
If you have the symptoms of low testosterone, then it’s worth getting a test to determine your testosterone levels. We sell a range of testosterone blood tests, both at home finger prick tests or blood draw services with a nurse or registered practitioner.
This is because the toxins in our environment can dramatically impact your testosterone levels. In addition, oftentimes men have many of the symptoms of low testosterone yet they don’t realise it. And they may put this down to “age” or a number of other things.
Without a test to confirm your testosterone levels, it’s just speculation. What’s more, if you are considering testosterone replacement therapy, your doctor will require you have to have at least two separate blood tests confirming it.
If you want to take a test to find out what your testosterone levels are, contact us today and we can arrange that for you.