Your Testosterone Blood Test Results Explained
Ok, you have been worried about your testosterone levels, and have finally seen your doctor for a blood test. But what do your testosterone blood test results mean?
From a layman’s point of view all they appear to be is a list of numbers that mean very little to the untrained eye, they don’t make a lot of sense, and to be honest, even the doctor wasn’t very clear when explaining the results.
Do not worry. In this article I have tried to detail everything you need to know about your blood tests, helping you to have a better understanding of the testosterone blood test results.
Lets Get Going..
Table Of Contents
The HPG Axis and Testosterone
To fully understand you testosterone blood test results, you need to get to know just what these hormones do in your body.
To do so, we need to take a quick tour of your Hypothalamic Pituitary Gonadal Axis (aka Your HPG).
This is the connection between your hypothalamus in the brain, the pituitary gland and your gonadal (reproductive) glands.
This axis forms part of your endocrine system. Its key purpose is to control quite an elaborate system that links your brain to the various glands responsible for releasing hormones into your body.
Within the HPG Axis each individual hormone plays a crucial part in regulating testosterone and its effects.
Of all its rolls, the main one is the control of your development, reproduction and ageing.
There are a number of key hormones involved in these processes, the are the ones that you should be learning about.
GnRH (Gonadin-releasing hormone) comes from the hypothlamus in the brain. It triggers the pituitary gland to start releasing its hormones.
Thank of it as a hormonal alarm clock that wakes the pituitary gland and gets it going.
When its woken into action by GnRH, the pituitary gland releases two hormones – Luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
These go into the bloodstream where they travel to the testes, there they attach themselves to their receptors.
This process controls how much testosterone is related into the blood stream.
LH in turn helps to regulate the enzymatic reaction of cholesterol, helping it to synthesise into testosterone in the leydig cells in the testes.
This change takes several stages, it synthesises into pregnenolone first and then into DHEA (Dehydroroepiandrosterone) before becoming testosterone.
“Testosterone is the product of an elaborate and quite complex system controlled by the Hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal-axis”
Why Are My T Levels Being Tested
Testosterone blood tests are usually requested after a doctors consultation. They will have asked you if you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with low testosterone production.
“Have you experienced any of the following”
- Erection problems
- Lack of sex drive or performance
- Reduced muscle tone
- Lack of strength
- Increased belly fat
- Developed man boobs
- Loss of facial or body hair
- Any concerns over insulin/blood sugar levels or cardiac health
If you answer yes to one or more, it is possible that low testosterone could be the cause – Hence the need for the test.
The Blood Test Itself
Its generally considered that a testosterone blood test is best taken in the early morning, between 7 and 10am – this is because the hormone levels are generally at their highest in the hours immediately after waking.
Blood is taken from a vein in your arm and the sample is sent to the lab for testing, results take a few days to be returned to your doctor
The Testosterone Blood Test Results Themselves
Once your testosterone blood test results are back with your doctor, they will assess the readings to determine your T levels –
The crucial levels that we are looking for are both Free and Total Testosterone.
Testosterone and SHBG
Testosterone is kept on tight leash in the body, this is crucial to keep your body working at peak levels.
There are several mechanisms that work to keep control of testosterone levels. One major player is SHBG ( Sex Hormone Binding Globulin).
Produced in the liver, SHBG is the main distributor of sex hormones throughout the body, it is also there to ensure that testosterone isn’t there in too higher quantities.
“SHBG is like a doorman at a nightclub, it makes sure that only so many testosterone cells get into the bloodstream.”
A lot of testosterone in the blood is bound to SHBG or another protein called Albumin. Although the tie that binds it to albumin is rather weak and it often breaks away which allows it to be used by the bodies tissues.
Free testosterone is not bound to SHBG or any other protein and is available to the body for use.
Free Testosterone levels vary as men age.
As an example, a man aged 35 years old should return a free testosterone reading of between 4.65-18.1 ng.dl.
This reduces as a man gets older, by the time he reaches 55 years old the Free testosterone readings should be in the region of 3.87-14.7ng.dl
If testosterone blood test results are lower than these, you are generally considered to have low T.
This measurement is the total amount of testosterone in the blood, wether its bound to SHBG, any other proteins or completely free.
This reading is the one most used to determine low testosterone.
Readings of total testosterone in the blood should ideally be between 300ng.dl and 1000ng.dl in a healthy male.
If recorded levels are lower then the man is usually diagnosed as having hypoganism (the official name for low testosterone)
This does mean that you could be at risk of developing any number of physical, metabolic and cognitive disorders.
You may not suffer all of the side effects, especially at first, but its always best to try and return your testosterone levels to normal levels as quickly as possible.
Depending on the amount of the shortfall, your doctor might suggest a course of TRT (testosterone replacement therapy) although these have been linked to some quite nasty side effects in some users.
Other changes suggested might include dietary changes, exercise and the use of good natural testosterone boosting supplements.
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