June is the month when we celebrate our fathers and grandfathers, but did you know that it is also Men's Health Month? The purpose of Men's Health Month is to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. Though women are much more likely to visit their doctors, both when they are ill and for preventative care, a proactive approach can make a world of difference for male patients as well.
Among the most looming of health concerns for many men are the fluctuating blood sugar levels, hypertension, weight gain and other signs and symptoms that are part of a larger picture we call metabolic syndrome. This condition is extremely prevalent and statistics suggest that the situation is only getting worse. A CDC report from 2009 estimates that 34% of Americans meet the criteria for metabolic syndrome and this prevalence increases with age (51% of males over the age of 60 fall into this category).1 Though treatments for metabolic syndrome should always include lifestyle alterations including a diet of predominantly high fiber, low glycemic foods and exercise incorporated into a daily schedule, what many patients and their healthcare providers miss is the important role that testosterone plays in the metabolic syndrome picture.
Testosterone replacement in men with documented low testosterone levels has repeatedly been shown to improve insulin resistance, and reduce abdominal obesity and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Testosterone increase lean muscle mass and improved insulin sensitivity in muscle cells and reduces inflammation, a major contributor to cardiovascular disease.5
Unfortunately, the prevalence of low or suboptimal testosterone levels is quite common. Approximately 38% of men over the age of 45 had total serum testosterone levels that were below the standards and/or suboptimal at the very least.
Salivary hormone testing specifically measures the fraction of the hormone that is available to the tissues and provides an invaluable tool for monitoring testosterone levels, enabling proactive treatment that can prevent many of the problems associated with metabolic syndrome. This Father's Day, let's give the men in our lives more than another necktie or DVD. Provide them with the knowledge and empowerment to make positive changes in their health.