In Part I, I told you about the things that can increase a woman’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and, how, women can be more adversely affected. In Part II, I’d like to talk to you about the health and lifestyle issues that increase a man’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and some surprising conclusions that recent research has made.
Low Testosterone and Alzheimer Disease
Just as I told you about how declining estrogen levels in menopausal women can put them at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, so can declining testosterone levels also increase a man’s risk.
Recent research out of the Queen Mary Hospital of the University of Hong Kong [Bioavailable Testosterone Predicts a Lower Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease in Older Men. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2010], concluded that having low testosterone levels may make a man more vulnerable to developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The study focused on 153 Chinese men, at least 55 years old, who did not have dementia. About one-third of the men did, however, have mild cognitive impairment, and/or problems with clear thinking and memory loss. These men also had low testosterone and higher levels of ApoE4, a protein blood marker associated with Alzheimer’s.
Ten of these men, within a year of starting the study, developed Alzheimer disease. The findings of this study reflected previous studies done on older Caucasian men that showed that low testosterone levels is one of the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. The recommendations of the researchers of this particular study were that doctors should pay more attention to testosterone levels in men with memory, or other cognitive, complaints. And, that testosterone replacement in older men with these cognitive complaints could prevent them from developing Alzheimer’s disease.
What Can You Do About Low Testosterone Levels?
Unlike women whose estrogen levels decline naturally with menopause, a man’s testosterone levels don’t naturally decline in the same way. Apparently, underlying poor health conditions like obesity, heart disease, depression, other illnesses, and/or lifestyle behaviors, such as smoking, are what cause a man’s testosterone to drop.
These are the surprising findings of a recent study out of the ANZAC Research Institute of the University of Sydney [Older age does not cause testosterone levels to decline in healthy men, Science Daily, October 2012] and the University of Adelaide in Australia [Declining testosterone levels in men not part of normal aging, Science Daily June 2012].
Prior, it was generally thought that, a man’s levels of the hormone testosterone decreased naturally with age. Symptoms of low testosterone typically are fatigue and loss of libido. Now, these studies show that declining testosterone is not a usual consequence of the aging process but is more likely associated with the presence of other diseases of aging – like obesity and heart disease. Testosterone levels, the researchers concluded, were not related to a deficiency state and could be maintained by good overall health and not smoking.
Boost Health to Boost Testosterone
I tell my male patients that, although the results of these studies are surprising, the good news is that testosterone decline – and the increased risk of Alzheimer disease – is not inevitable with getting older. Getting your overall health in shape and reducing/omitting certain social behaviors can help you maintain good testosterone levels and reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer disease. Here’s how:
- Get to/maintain a normal weight. Eat a healthy diet packed with optimal nutrition.
- Exercise regularly. 4 times a week, engage in 15-20 minutes of alternating intervals of intense/mild aerobic exercise. This can help you burn more fat and build cardio strength better than 40 minutes, or more, of one level-aerobic exercise.
- Get enough sleep. Studies show that chronic sleep deprivation can put you at risk for developing poor general health.
- Stop smoking. This is a bad habit that impacts many aspects of your general health. Now, we’ve learned that it also decreases testosterone levels. Just quit!
- Socialize. Studies show that people who remain more socially active are less depressed and able to cope with life’s ups and downs. Depression can also lead to lower testosterone levels as well.
These new research studies show that declining testosterone levels is not a foregone conclusion of getting older. Rather, it’s poorer general health and the diseases associated with age, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc, that lower a man’s testosterone and puts him at higher risk for another disease of aging, Alzheimer’s disease.
Follow a healthy lifestyle, keep a normal weight, ensure that your nutrition is optimal, stop risky social behaviors, get enough sleep, and stay socially engaged. This plan helps you both ward off the diseases of aging, and lower testosterone levels that ultimately put you at higher risk for developing Alzheimer disease.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Low testosterone linked to Alzheimer disease, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101005171202.html
Older age does not cause testosterone levels to decline in healthy men, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110607121129.html
Declining testosterone levels in men not part of normal aging, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120623144944.html