No matter what corner of the world you reside in, your gender is one of the biggest contributing factors to your life expectancy. The global average life expectancy for women is 72.2. For men, it is just 68, a whopping 4.2 years lower.
These results are not skewed by some far-reaching country where men die hunting or fighting in wars. In fact, in developed countries, women can expect to live to 82, but the gender gap is even bigger, at 6.8 years.
There are many theories as to the causes of this gap, and the truth is that there is a combination of reasons. One of the leading contributing factors is the male sex hormone testosterone. Clinical trials show us that both too much and too little testosterone can shorten a man's life.
This article aims to answer how testosterone affects life expectancy and what you can do about it.
Why Do Women Live Longer Than Men?
While men are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, drink excessively, and smoke. Women are more likely to seek medical care for conditions sooner than men. However, this cannot be the whole story as the gap is too big, and child mortality is also higher in boys. Furthermore, females in most species live longer than their male counterparts.
Child mortality is not the whole story either as when adults over the age of 45 are considered women can also still expect to live for longer.
Therefore, the most significant factors are biological, and again there are several contributing factors. For one, women have two X chromosomes, while men have XY chromosomes. The difference leads women to have double copies of each gene, which means they have a spare if they need it.
Another important factor is that while women usually have more subserous fat, men tend to hold onto more visceral fat, which is associated with many weight-related diseases.
However, one of the biggest contributing factors appears to be sex hormones, in particular, testosterone levels.
The Effects of Hormones
The differences in sex hormones are perhaps the biggest contributing factor to the life expectancy gender gap. However, both too much testosterone and too little have serious drawbacks.
Furthermore, women produce more estrogen, which is in itself an antioxidant, keeping women healthy. Evolutionarily, it makes sense that during mating, women want a man with lots of testosterone, but once children are born, men are more disposable. In contrast, the mother's health is intricately connected with the welfare of the child.
Testosterone naturally declines with age; however, research shows us that men with the lowest testosterone levels have the highest cumulative mortality rate, followed by men with the highest levels. Men with levels in the middle range tend to live the longest.
So what can you do about it? Well, the first step is to determine if your levels are high or low.
Too Much Testosterone
Testosterone plays several important roles, including muscle mass, bone mass, regulation of libido, and the production of sperm. Normal amounts are essential for health. However, too much can cause several health problems, including certain types of cancer, such as prostate cancer.
Signs of High Testosterone Levels
Men with high testosterone could experience troubling symptoms. They may be more aggressive and irritable and have acne and oily skin.
- Increased appetite
- Shrunken testicles
- Aggressive or risk-taking behaviors
- Excessive body hair
- Low sperm count
- Mood swings
- Prostate enlargement, which could cause difficulty passing urine
- Swelling of the legs and feet
- Heart or liver problems
- Unexplained weight gain
- High blood pressure
- High libido
Causes Of High Testosterone
A small percentage of men will have a genetic predisposition to high testosterone levels. As a result, these people are at a higher risk of heart disease, blood clots, and other cardiovascular issues.
However, this is rare in nature. It is much more common for men to be deficient in testosterone.
High testosterone levels are usually caused by anabolic steroid use. While high testosterone levels can help men build muscle mass, steroid hormones can lead to a number of complications. Fortunately, there are natural and more gentle ways to increase testosterone.
Other potential causes of high testosterone levels include tumors in the testicles or adrenal glands.
High testosterone levels go untreated can raise bad cholesterol levels and lead to heart issues, including cardiovascular disease, mortality, stroke, or heart attack.
What To Do About High Testosterone
It is essential that you speak to a doctor if you think your testosterone levels might be high. There are serious health implications of high testosterone, and it might be a sign of something serious.
Too Little Testosterone
Testosterone naturally decreases with age, at about 1% per year from the age of 30. It worsens as men get older and go through their own male menopause, known as andropause.
Andropause is defined by low libido, inability to get rid of body fat, fatigue, poor concentration, and muscle wasting. Although the connection between low testosterone and life expectancy is not fully understood, if these symptoms are left untreated, it can lead to bad habits and ultimately a shorter life.
Epidemiological studies have found that men with low testosterone have a lower life expectancy than those with higher levels. Testosterone deficiency has been associated with cardiovascular risk factors, type 2 diabetes, respiratory and renal diseases, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and inflammatory disorders.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
Low testosterone levels can leave men with an impending sense of doom and poor health. They may start to see extra fat in the midsection and have poor motivation and concentration. They may even struggle to engage with others.
- Low libido
- Difficulties with concentration and memory
- Erectile dysfunction
- Loss of muscle mass
- Increased body fat
- Decreased sense of well-being
- Depressed mood
- Moodiness and irritability
- A decrease in hemoglobin and mild anemia
- A decrease in body hair
- Thinning of the bones (osteoporosis)
- Breast development (gynecomastia)
What Causes Low Testosterone
From the age of 30, testosterone levels naturally decline. Therefore lowering testosterone levels is a natural symptom of growing older. Other common causes include body fat, alcohol misuse, medications such as steroids and opioid pain meds, and ongoing stress.
Less common causes include undescended testicles, too much iron, recreational drug use, tumors, kidney failure, inflammatory diseases, physical injury to the testicles, and cancer treatment.
How To Naturally Boost Your Testosterone Levels
Healthy lifestyle factors can naturally increase your testosterone levels, including:
- Eating a balanced diet.
- Getting enough sleep.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Exercising regularly.
- Reducing stress.
- Avoiding drugs and alcohol.
- Review medications.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy
If you are concerned about testosterone deficiency, you should speak to your doctor about potential treatment. They will be able to test your serum testosterone concentrations. If your levels are low enough to warrant testosterone treatment, then they will advise you on your best course of action.
Does testosterone increase mortality?
Testosterone and mortality are not fully understood. However, there is evidence that too much or too little testosterone can negatively affect life expectancy.
Maintaining normal testosterone levels could be one of the best things you do for your health. It can help you keep away fat and hold onto muscle, improve your mental health, and keep you energized and youthful.
Unless you have a serious testosterone deficiency, testosterone therapy could raise testosterone levels too high.
Does testosterone slow aging?
Optimum testosterone levels are associated with better physical and mental health, which helps keep you young. Better energy and concentration can also help you to maintain healthy habits such as exercise and healthy eating, which will help keep you young.
What are the long-term effects of taking testosterone?
Studies show that men on long-term testosterone therapy could have a higher risk of cardiovascular problems, including strokes and heart disease. There is also a small amount of evidence that it could increase the risk of prostate cancer. However, the research is still in its infancy, and the results are unclear.
The benefits of men with very low testosterone levels often outweigh the risks. However, it is a decision you should discuss with your doctor.
Testosterone and life expectancy are intrinsically linked. Research is still in its infancy, and many studies contradict each other, but it is clear that both too much and too little testosterone is bad for men's health.
For most men, too little testosterone is the problem. This is because levels naturally decline with age. However, testosterone therapy may not be the answer unless your levels are very low because of the risks involved in long-term treatment.
Instead, naturally keeping your hormones balanced may be the best thing you can do for your health. You can do that by maintaining healthy habits such as exercise, sleep, and eating a balanced diet.