American men worried about their low-T?

It took the New York Times to take a look at a serious symptom befalling men all over the United States in the last few decades. Men’s average testosterone levels have been dropping, it noted, by at least 1 percent a year, according to a 2006 study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

This writer himself noticed several years ago that things weren’t popping like they used to be, so he talked to his physician and got a prescription for Andro-Gel.

First, applying Andro-Gel and products is a trip and a half. You have to wash one shoulder and underarm at a time carefully, then pump the gel in the shoulder and underarm, and let it seep in. Then you have to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and wipe or cover your shoulders and underarms. The site should be covered by clothing like a loose t-shirt.

Also, you have to remember that Andro-Gel is flammable because it’s alcohol-based, so don’t light a cigarette nearby. Also, keep your towels to yourself because the product can rub off on other people, children or women, and your grandkid of six may experience hair growth or your mate can as well. If the directions don’t put you off, you’re a better man than I am. My prescription has been sitting in its original box for two years, untouched. I feel like Satan lives in it.

Testosterone, the study tells us, appears to decline naturally with aging, but internal belly fat depresses the hormone further, especially in obese men. Drugs like steroids and opiates can also lower testosterone, and it’s suspected that chemicals like bisphenol A (or BPA, commonly found in plastic food containers) and diseases like Type 2 diabetes play a role, as well. I haven’t eaten any plastic containers. Sorry, I mean food from plastic containers, which means I’ll probably be okay. And I don’t have diabetes.

Unfortunately, the barrage of TV commercials that boost sexual activity heighten the feeling of potency loss. It’s all tied up with masculinity and macho bullshit. Clinical testosterone deficiency, which is variously defined as lower than 220 to 350 nanograms of testosterone per deciliter of blood serum can add depression to lessening sex drive and fertility. Yet, if you haven’t done the nasty enough by 75 (my age), your bone density often declines and you may feel tired and experience hot flashes and sweats. Sorry, no hot flashes and sweats yet. Nor have my bones crumbled. Maybe by next Halloween they will.

But “low T,” as the condition has been branded on men’s brains, isn’t nearly as common as the drug ads for prescription testosterone would have you believe. Pharmaceutical companies have seized on the decline in testosterone levels as pathological and applicable to every man. They aim to convince men that common effects of aging like slowing down a bit and feeling less sexual active actually constitute a new disease, and that calls for a prescription to cure. This is a seductive message for many men, who just want to feel better in the sack, and want to give youth a shot again, literally. So don’t let Big Pharma bring you down, guys. These may or may not be for you.

The problem is that prescription testosterone doesn’t just give your T level a boost, it may also increase your risk of heart attack. It can add huge numbers of red blood cells to your bloodstream and shrink your testes. Ouch! Embarrassed yet, guys? In some men, it increases aggression and irritability and turn you into a grump. And children, who accidentally come in contact with the hormone, as mentioned, can develop unwanted pubic hair and genital changes.

Importantly, a large study published in the journal PLoS ONE found that, within three months, taking the hormone doubled the rate of heart attacks in men 65 and older, as well as in younger men who have heart disease. The Food and Drug Administration has begun an investigation. A word to the wise: sometimes less is more, so go with the flow, whether it’s high or low.

The number of testosterone prescriptions given to American men has tripled since 2001. I buried mine in my drug cabinet after studying the issues involved with it. Used clinically since 1937 (a year before my birth) and approved by the FDA since 1952. Testosterone is now administered in at least five forms, including patches, gels and injections. Three million prescriptions were written in 2012 for the market leader AndroGel alone. Sales of all testosterone-boosting drugs are estimated to have been $2 billion in 2012, and are projected to hit $5 billion by 2017. Anyone ever calculate its effect on the population explosion?

Too many doctors are now writing testosterone prescriptions without even measuring the patient’s hormone levels, much less retesting for confirmation and adjusting the dose after prescription. Up to a quarter of these prescriptions are dispensed without a blood test.

Luckily, we don’t have to wait 12 more years to learn about the risks of testosterone in healthy men. Men have been drugged by over-processed foods and gender-bending chemicals like BPA. The last thing they need now is a prescription for a risky drug to treat a manufactured disease. I

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer and life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at gvmaz@verizon.net.

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