Hormones are important to daily life functioning and help regulate our body’s metabolism, growth and development, reproduction, sleep-wake cycles, and stress response. They communicate information between our organs and tissues to ensure appropriate functioning and synchronization of their activities.
We need our hormones to perform optimally to maintain overall health and well-being. This month, we discuss male hormones. Male hormones, also known as androgens, are a group of hormones that are primarily produced in the testes in males. The main androgen hormone in males is testosterone, although there are other androgens, such as dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which are also essential.
The primary hormones necessary for men include:
- Testosterone: Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone and is responsible for the development and maintenance of male reproductive tissues, including the testes and prostate. It plays a crucial role in the development increased muscle mass, facial and body hair growth, deepening of the voice, and the development of the Adam’s apple. Testosterone also plays a role in maintaining bone density, regulating mood, and stimulating the production of red blood cells.
- Dihydrotestosterone (DHT): DHT is a more powerful form of testosterone and plays a critical role in the development and growth of male external genitalia during fetal development. DHT also contributes to the development of male pattern baldness and the growth of facial and body hair during puberty.
- Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA): DHEA is an produced by the adrenal glands in both males and females. In males, it serves as a forerunner to produce testosterone and other hormones.
Male hormones are essential for to promote the production of sperm cells in the testes and support sexual function, including libido (sex drive) and erectile function. The production of male hormones is regulated by a feedback loop involving the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and testes. The hypothalamus secretes gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which signals the pituitary gland to release luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). LH stimulates the testes to produce testosterone, while FSH supports sperm production.
Imbalances in male hormones can occur due to various factors, including age, certain medical conditions (such as hypogonadism or testicular disorders), medication use, and lifestyle factors. In cases of hormone deficiencies or imbalances, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be considered to restore hormonal levels to a more normal range. HRT in males typically involves testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) to address low testosterone levels and associated symptoms. The administration of TRT can be done through injections, transdermal patches, gels, or pellets implanted under the skin.
It’s important to note that the use of male hormone therapy, like any medical intervention, should be discussed with a healthcare professional who can assess individual needs, monitor hormone levels, and provide appropriate guidance and supervision.
Some potential health risks and symptoms associated with declining hormones in men include:
- Sexual dysfunction: This can include reduced libido (sex drive), erectile dysfunction, decreased frequency and quality of erections, and decreased overall sexual satisfaction.
- Changes in mood and cognitive function: Low testosterone levels may contribute to increased irritability, fatigue, depression, and decreased motivation. Some men may also experience cognitive changes, including difficulties with concentration, memory, and overall cognitive performance.
- Decreased muscle mass and strength: Declining hormone levels can lead to decreased muscle mass, reduced muscle strength, and a potential increase in body fat.
- Reduced bone density: As hormone levels decline, the risk of osteoporosis or osteopenia (low bone density) may increase, potentially leading to an increased risk of fractures.
- Fatigue and decreased energy levels: Low testosterone levels can contribute to feelings of fatigue, decreased energy levels, and reduced overall vitality.
- Metabolic changes: Hormonal imbalances can affect metabolism, potentially leading to insulin resistance, increased risk of metabolic syndrome, and a higher likelihood of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- Decreased quality of life: The various symptoms associated with declining hormones can impact a man’s overall quality of life, including physical, emotional, and social well-being.
While men and women share the same hormones and suffer similar outcomes from declining hormones, men and women have distinct hormonal profiles, and the primary differences lie in the levels and functions of certain hormones for each sex.
Here are some key differences in hormones between men and women:
- Testosterone: Testosterone levels are significantly higher in men compared to women. Testosterone is responsible for the development of male reproductive tissues, secondary sexual characteristics (such as facial and body hair growth, deepening of the voice, and muscle mass), and plays a role sperm production. While women also produce testosterone, their levels are typically much lower. Testosterone plays a role in sex drive for both sexes.
- Estrogen and Progesterone: Estrogen and progesterone are the primary female sex hormones. Estrogen is responsible for the development of female reproductive organs, breast development, and regulation of the menstrual cycle. Progesterone is involved in the preparation of the uterus for pregnancy and the maintenance of pregnancy. Women generally have higher levels of estrogen and progesterone compared to men.
- Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH): FSH and LH are gonadotropins that play a crucial role in the reproductive systems of both men and women. In women, FSH stimulates the growth and development of ovarian follicles, which contain eggs, and triggers the release of estrogen. LH causes ovulation and helps regulate the production of estrogen and progesterone. In men, FSH and LH stimulate the production of sperm and testosterone.
- Prolactin: Prolactin is a hormone primarily associated with breastfeeding and milk production in women. It is typically higher in women, especially during pregnancy and after childbirth. However, men also produce prolactin, albeit at lower levels, and it plays a role in various physiological processes in both sexes, such as immune regulation and sexual behavior.
While these hormones are generally more predominant in one sex over the other, they are still present and have important functions in both men and women. Hormonal levels can vary among individuals, and there is considerable overlap in hormone ranges between the sexes.
It is important to recognize that the endocrine system is complex, and there are other hormones involved in various physiological activities in both men and women, such as thyroid hormones, cortisol, insulin, and more. The overall hormonal balance and interplay between different hormones contribute to the unique characteristics and functions of each sex.
A blood hormone panel assessing the levels of your hormones provide helpful insight of how your hormones are processing.