The hormone testosterone is a vital part of male development. For instance, fluctuations in testosterone trigger puberty and allow for increased muscle development. Levels are highest in a man's mid-20s and decrease with age.
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Testosterone is produced in male testes and is also present in female uteruses. The hormone is commonly referred to as an androgen, or male sex hormone.
The hormone stimulates deepening of the voice, enlargement of the reproductive organs, development of chest hair, and an increase in bone and muscle mass during puberty. It is also responsible for production of sperm and regulation of the libido.
Normally, testosterone levels range from 350 to 1,200ng/dl (nanograms per decilitre). Interestingly, these values have significantly decreased in the last decade; the average testosterone value was 700ng/dl in the 1940s, as opposed to 400ng/dl today.
Fluctuations in testosterone levels occur during puberty and later in life. During puberty, levels increase in order to facilitate the necessary changes in the male body. Later in life, a decrease in testosterone may lead to symptoms such as lack of sex drive, erectile dysfunction and a decrease in strength and endurance.
Although low testosterone levels are a normal part of the ageing process, testosterone deficiency in younger men is a common problem. Hormone replacement treatments are available for those suffering from testosterone deficiency, which can be genetic.
Some doctors and scientists speculate that an increase in artificial preservatives and the widespread use of pesticides may be causing the lower levels of testosterone in males. However, results of these studies are inconclusive.
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