The Male Libido: A Timeline of Testosterone
A lot of men are afraid about losing their sex drive as they age — and for good reasons. A low sex drive can reduce self-esteem, strain relationships, and even cause depression. Because of this, it’s helpful to know what to expect from your body as you get older.
Both men and women typically experience a drop in sex hormones as they age. With women, this drop can happen relatively quickly, during menopause. It’s generally a more gradual process with men and their levels of testosterone, which is the sex hormone that causes a lot of the bodily changes that happen during puberty — things like body hair, sex organ development, a deeper voice, and sperm production.
Understanding the male sex drive
Most men hit their peak testosterone levels around the age of 20. It doesn’t last. During your 30s, your testosterone levels will naturally drop about 1 percent or more every year. This doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up. When most men hit their 50s and 60s, it’s often clear to them that their libido — their interest in sex — isn’t what it used to be. Conditions like diabetes, stress and depression can also cause lower testosterone levels. So can excess belly fat, sleep apnea and certain medications.
Lower testosterone generally results in a reduced interest in sex, although most men with naturally falling testosterone levels are able to maintain at least some amount of sexual interest well into their 60s and 70s. On the other hand, significantly lower testosterone levels can cause or contribute to erectile dysfunction, sperm disorders, decreased energy levels, lower muscle mass, increased body fat, and even osteoporosis.
What about testosterone replacement?
Some men are good candidates for testosterone replacement therapy, which is generally done with patches and injections. But testosterone replacement comes with a list of possible side effects, including infertility and faster growth of prostate cancer cells. Generally speaking, testosterone replacement should only be used by men who have below-normal testosterone levels, and under a doctor’s supervision. The same goes for over-the-counter products for low testosterone.
Proven methods to boost your sex drive
While you can’t turn back the male biological clock, there are several lifestyle changes that can boost your libido — or help you make the most of it. Here are a few:
- Exercise regularly. Keeping fit can improve your self-image, release tension and boost sexual stamina.
- Know your body. For most men, testosterone levels are highest in the morning and lowest in the early evening.
- Avoid alcohol and cigarettes. Smoking reduces blood flow in the penis, while having more than two alcoholic drinks a day can impair your nervous system and cause fatigue.
- Manage stress. Stress is not only a distraction, it can disrupt your sex hormone levels by increasing your body’s adrenaline and cortisol. Meditation, yoga and therapy are a few ways to cope with stress.
- Communicate with your partner. A deeper emotional bond can make it easier to connect physically.
- Eat libido-boosting foods. Foods that are high in vitamin B, such as citrus fruits, avocados and bananas, can help boost sexual stamina by increasing blood circulation.
- Talk to your doctor. If you’re concerned about loss of sex drive or about an inability to maintain an erection — especially if the loss happened abruptly — ask your doctor. He or she will likely take a detailed history, do a physical exam and request lab tests to help determine what’s causing the changes in your body.