NEW ORLEANS - Beginning around the age of 30, men start losing one percent of an important hormone each year.
And doctors say it is important to replace it for quality of life and long term health.
Jerry Tolbert played basketball in the Air Force. In golf, he usually hits a few strokes over par, but in his mid 50s, something changed.
"As men we don't like to talk about those things. Just seems like it's something about that you keep to yourself," said Tolbert.
Jerry was going through andropause. His testosterone levels were declining, like menopause in women. The hormone testosterone is responsible for sex drive and performance, muscle and bone mass, energy, mood, thinking and metabolism, helping decrease fat storage. So when he didn't feel like himself, he turned to urologist Dr. Neil Baum.
"If your testosterone level is low, it is good medicine to raise it to normal," explained Dr. Baum, a urologist at Touro. He says with other medical conditions, such as blood pressure, glucose and thyroid levels, doctors don't hesitate to help patients bring those to normal.
Dr. Baum says when levels of testosterone drop, men can fall asleep after meals more easily, have low sex drive, energy and motivation, along with muscle and fitness loss and mood changes such as irritability and depression.
So with a simple blood test to diagnose low-T along with symptoms, he uses injections or creams or even tiny pellet implants to replace what the body no longer makes.
Dr. Baum wants to make it abundantly clear, this is not about taking a lot of testosterone to make you super human like some of the professional athletes do. This is simply about replacing what your body no longer makes to bring you up to normal.
He says a recent study raising concerns about testosterone replacement and risks for heart attacks and strokes, was poorly done, even including women in the study.
"The study is really flawed from so many different areas and now a new study came out that demonstrates that replacing testosterone improves the cardiac function improves, decreases the risk of stroke and it may be cardio-protective instead of cardio-dangerous," he added.
Now at 67 years old, Jerry feels normal and his clothes fit better.
"I had this midriff bulge, that's going away now. It's not as bad as it was," said Tolbert about his midsection since he began hormone replacement therapy.
Going years with low testosterone can increase risk for hip and spine fractures, diabetes and heart disease as well as cognitive declines, loss of sex drive, sexual performance and overall energy.
Doctors do not recommend oral hormone replacement at all, or replacement for men not finished having children.