For thousands of years, explorers, beginning with Ponce de Leon, have been searching for the “Fountain of Youth.”
No one knows if the fountain exists, or what the source of its restorative power is.
It’s been called everything from the “water of life” to the “elixir of immortality.”
These days, anti-aging specialists simply refer to it as “T.”
You’d think T, or testosterone, was pure magic from its highly touted benefits: a blast of increased energy, razor-sharp mental focus, blowtorch fat, piling on muscle, the ability to induce deep, restorative sleep and a raging libido.
But experts say altering your body’s natural hormone levels can be risky if not done correctly.
As more FDA-approved products hit the market, the baby boomer generation is living up to its reputation as the “eternally young” generation and jumping on the anti-aging bandwagon.
In 2011, consumers spent approximately $1.6 billion on Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT), almost triple the amount spent in 2006, according to market research company IMS Health.
Dr. Harvey Bartnof is the founder of the California Longevity & Vitality Medical Institute.
His practice focuses on life extension medicine and hormone replacement therapies for both men and women.
He says patients come to him to slow the aging process; they want to remain active and engaged in progress into their later years.
“People would rather not go down the pathway of mom and dad if they don’t have to.”
‘Viagra for the boardroom.’
Testosterone is naturally produced primarily through a man’s testes. (The hormone is also found in women, but in far lesser amounts.)
The hormone helps regulate a wide array of functions; bone density, fat accumulation, muscle tone and strength, red blood cell production, sex drive, and sperm production, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Bartnof compares it to oil in a machine.
While other systems make your body “go,” hormones such as testosterone grease the wheels, so they work smoothly.
The body’s production of testosterone peaks in early adulthood and typically declines about 1% each year after age 30, according to the Mayo Clinic website.
A low testosterone level is called hypoandrogenism.
Symptoms of hypoandrogenism include insomnia, fewer erections, reduced muscle strength, depression, trouble concentrating and hair loss.
The 48-year-old financial planner first started feeling the effects of his age a few years ago.
As the founder of an Illinois wealth management firm, he was managing multiple clients’ portfolios a day in the ever-increasing faster pace of the financial markets.
He found his concentration started to fade earlier, even when he made an effort to take care of himself by exercising more often and paying more attention to what he was eating.
“Being in the business that I’m in, you need to be on top of your game,” Freiburger says. “For a lot of men, it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m getting old.’ I’m not very good at accepting that it’s the way it needs to be.”
Up until a few years ago, testosterone was mostly the choice of competitive bodybuilders and professional athletes.
TRT comes in many forms, according to Nelson Vergel, author of “Testosterone: A Man’s Guide.”
The hormone can be injected into the muscle, absorbed through the skin via a cream/gel, or released slowly through a small pellet inserted into the body.
A doctor does regular blood tests to determine the correct dosage.
Freiburger saw results just two days after beginning his hormone therapy.
First, his energy levels skyrocketed. Then he saw an increase in his concentration level at work.
Soon after, his libido returned, and within a month he was losing weight and putting on muscle at the gym.
“I’m a better person. I’m a better wealth manager,” he said. “(I) have the energy, vitality to go conquer the world.”
However, it is not the “Fountain of Youth.”
You probably know that there’s no magic pill for perfect health.
While direct-to-consumer marketing may make it seem otherwise, testosterone is no exception, Vergel says.
“I’m just amazed how many men start a hormone without doing research,” he says.
“It’s a wonderful thing to start if you need it. It also has some side effects if not done properly.”
It will also improve your sex drive; what it won’t do, Vergel says, is make you into a raging teenager again.
A 2004 study showed nearly 20% of patients might not respond sufficiently to testosterone therapies.
And the benefits from testosterone can plateau anywhere from six weeks to one year into treatment.
One of the biggest things to be aware of is that most men never stop testosterone replacement therapy, says Dr. Gregory Broderick, a urologist with the Mayo Clinic.
He explains that once you start, your body begins shutting down natural production of the hormone, thinking it’s no longer needed.
This can lead to “shrinkage” of the testicles and a suppression of sperm production.
Broderick says finding a qualified doctor is critical.
Anti-aging is a new field, and even though it is growing by leaps and bounds, most doctors are not trained in hormone therapy, so they learn as they go from pharmaceutical reps and the latest published research.
TRT is often done by physicians who specialize in “boutique medicine.”
Once you find a physician, he or she should screen for prostate cancer before starting treatment.
While studies have shown testosterone replacement therapies do not increase the likelihood of developing cancer, they can encourage tumor growth if a patient already has it.
Broderick recommends getting blood work done every three to four months after beginning testosterone therapy.
Men taking testosterone have increased levels of red blood cells, which can lead to complications with circulation, depriving areas of the body of oxygen, and potentially put them at risk for cardiovascular problems.
On average, testosterone replacement therapy costs less than $40 a month.
But many baby boomers, such as Freiburger, are using it as part of a more expensive holistic approach that includes exercise, nutritional supplements, nootropics (smart pills and drugs) and stress reduction that will (hopefully) allow them to stay healthy into their senior years…and they say it’s worth every penny.
“I would like to have as much quality of life and be as vital as I can as long as the Lord’s going to have me on this earth,” Freiburger says.
“I’m going to take the time and financial resources to try to make that a reality.”
Notice how the article emphasizes that the key is finding a qualified doctor that specializes in boutique medicine. That description fits our clinic to a T. Contact us.
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