Muscle Loss and Testosterone in Older Men

older-men-muscle-loss-testosteroneQ: My Dad is 86 years old and is starting to get pretty rickety. He has trouble getting up out of chairs and his legs are weak. I suggested he take some testosterone but he wants nothing to do with it (he’s getting cranky too). I love my father and hate to see him declining this way. Do you have any suggestions for helping him get his strength back? And maybe his good humor too?

A: Low testosterone can be the culprit in both rickety legs and crankiness in older men. An interesting study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (Leblanc et al, Oct 2011) found that men with the highest testosterone levels had significantly more muscle in their arms and legs than men with the lowest testosterone levels.

The two simplest ways to raise testosterone levels without supplementing it are exercise and avoiding estrogens. The best kind of exercise is weight lifting, but even a daily walk will make a big difference. Any type of natural muscle building will raise testosterone levels. The best way for your Dad to exercise may be at a gym with trainers experienced in working with seniors.

The most common source of estrogen in older men is belly fat. Other possible sources include:

— Body lotions and other personal care products containing phthalates, parabens and other estrogenic chemicals

— Microwaving foods in plastic containers

Fake fragrances found in scented laundry products, dry cleaned clothes, air fresheners, colognes and hair products

— Pesticides

— Prescription drugs such as heartburn drugs, anti-anxiety drugs (e.g. Valium), some antibiotics, and some heartburn drugs such as digoxin and calcium channel blockers.

Lack of sleep, an issue for older men who get up frequently at night to urinate, can cause a drop in growth hormone (IGF-1), which can also cause a drop in testosterone.

And yes, supplemental testosterone can work wonders to build muscle and improve mood in older men, but it should be used with caution, especially with men who have a lot of belly fat because of conversion to estrogen. The booklet Hormone Balance for Men explains the hows and whys.

Here’s a great article by Dr. John Lee about Men and Testosterone and some information on testing testosterone levels.

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3 Responses to "Muscle Loss and Testosterone in Older Men"

  1. Betsy Grace   February 27, 2012 at 7:02 am

    What to do in 58 year old women whose legs are getting week and knees are strained. Is my calcium too low? I ride a bike 4-6 miles a day 5 days a week. If I take calcium which my doctor says I should now with a lower Dexa scan reading.
    Help! Just plain weak. I love sports and want to get back into my tennis but my knees are wobbly.
    (note: I did take a statin for 3 weeks last summer which anhilated me to pain and weakness in my upper arms and thighs… My thighs are still not the same)

  2. Carla Clawson   February 27, 2012 at 7:48 am

    Great article, Virginia!
    Thank you so much for keeping Dr. Lee’s work alive in the modern age of “misinformation”..

  3. Michael Scott   February 27, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Dear Virginia Hopkins,

    I am a 66 y/o male who has worked out all his life (30min resistance/30 min cardiovascular, three times a week) at my local Gold’s Gym. At 61 I began to experience strained muscles using the same weight I’ve used since I was 20. I was also feeling “cranky” and wasn’t sleeping as well as when I was younger. When I measured myself against my measurements at 21 I found that I had lost muscle mass everywhere… That led to a lot of study pertaining to my lost muscle mass. which led me to lower testosterone levels relative to aging.

    After a lot of searching, I found a physician who practiced Bio-Identical Testosterone replacement. My total testosterone at that time was 65 (considered normal for someone at age 61)). I began using topical bio-identical testosterone compounded by my local compounding pharmacy. Within two years, both my muscle mass and my strength had returned. I also found that my “crankiness” was gone and I was sleeping better. At that time i was rubbing in 200 mg a day at a concentration of 200 mg/ml, rotating from underarms to insides of my thighs in a counterclockwise direction day one through four. It took me two more years to reach 800 which is were my doctor told me that most males are at when they are 21. At that point he reduced my daily topical dose to 100mg and I have stayed level in the 800 area. The cost of a 90 ml. tube at 200mg/ml is about $58.00 (90 day supply in the “climb phase and 180 days after I reached the 800 level)…. At one point I tried Andro Gel as my insurance would cover almost all the cost ($300 for 90 day supply). Within two weeks my lymph glands began to swell and my primary care physician told me to stop Andro Gel (my lymph glands returned to normal) and I returned to my compounded Bio-Identical.

    I have been using Testos Compounded Bio-Identical Testosterone for five years now. Before, during the climb phase and currently, my PSA have been within normal ranges and my digital exam has been also been normal….. I get a complete physical yearly and all of my blood work and physical exam are within normal limits

    I hope my experiences are of help to you were this discussion is concerned. I plan on staying on topical Bio-Identical Testosterone for the rest of my life. Currently I believe that these treatments are the “tip of the spear”. I expect these treatments will be common place as more men learn of the incredible benefits to be had through Compounded Bio-Identical Testosterone replacement.


    Michael R. Scott