What is testosterone?

Testosterone is a vital sex hormone that plays an important role in puberty. But contrary to what some people believe, testosterone isn’t exclusively a male hormone. Women produce small amounts of it in their bodies as well. In men, testosterone is produced in the testes, the reproductive glands that also produce sperm. The amount of testosterone produced in the testes is regulated by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland.

What is a hormone?

Hormones, such as testosterone, are powerful chemicals that help keep our bodies working normally. The term hormone is derived from the Greek word, hormo, which means to set in motion. And that’s precisely what hormones do. They stimulate, regulate, and control the function of various tissues and organs. Made by specialized groups of cells within structures called glands, hormones are involved in almost every biological process, including sexual reproduction, growth, metabolism, and immune function. These glands, including the pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, ovaries and testes, release various hormones into the body as needed. Do testosterone levels diminish with age? Does “male menopause occur?”

There is scant evidence that “male menopause,” a condition supposedly caused by diminishing testosterone levels in aging men, exists. As men age, their testes often produce somewhat less testosterone than they did during adolescence and early adulthood, when production of this hormone peaks. But it is important to keep in mind that the range of normal testosterone production is large. Many older men have testosterone levels within the normal range of healthy younger men. Others have levels well below this range. However, the likelihood that a man will ever experience a major shut down of hormone production, similar to a woman’s menopause, is remote.

In fact, many of the changes that take place in older men often are incorrectly blamed on decreasing testosterone levels. Some men who have erectile difficulty (impotence), for instance, may be tempted to blame this problem on lowered testosterone. However, in many cases, erectile difficulties are due to circulatory problems, not low testosterone.

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Article adapted by MD Only Sports Weblog from original press release.
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U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH

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