What is a normal testosterone level for your age?
Testosterone levels drop naturally with age — but what’s a normal rate of decline?
In the UK, testosterone prescriptions shot up by nearly 90% between 2000 and 2010 . There are many reasons for this, like the influence of the media, but it’s also possible that testosterone deficiency is genuinely on the rise.
Are declining testosterone levels not just a normal part of ageing?
The answer is yes, to a certain extent. But testosterone levels vary significantly between men — so knowing how to tell if your testosterone is high or low is not always straightforward. In this article, we look at how testosterone levels change with age, how to check your testosterone levels, and when it’s worth exploring further.
- What is testosterone?
- Testosterone levels throughout your lifetime
- Why do testosterone levels drop with time?
- What is a normal testosterone level for my age?
- Do I need TRT?
- How to check your testosterone levels
- How can I minimise the rate of decline?
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is the main sex hormone in men. It’s best known for its role in the development of male sexual characteristics and helps to regulate:
- Sex drive (libido)
- Muscle mass and strength
- Body composition and fat distribution
- Body hair growth
- Red blood cell production
- Sperm production
Testosterone has different functions at different stages of your life. It’s particularly important during puberty, where it triggers many physical and metabolic changes in the body. For this reason, testosterone levels naturally change with time.
Testosterone levels throughout your lifetime
Even well before you’re born, your testes start to produce small amounts of testosterone . Levels increase throughout childhood and, perhaps unsurprisingly, spike during adolescence. By your early 20s, your testosterone levels are the highest they’ll ever be naturally.
From here, testosterone levels gradually decline for the rest of your life in most men, but perhaps differently from how you might expect.
One study that looked at over 50,000 male blood samples found there was only a very gradual decline in testosterone levels from age 30, but this decline was more noticeable from age 80.
Adapted from Handelsman 2015 .
Why do testosterone levels drop?
To understand why testosterone levels decline, it’s useful to understand how testosterone levels are controlled.
Two areas of the brain are involved called the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. The hypothalamus instructs the pituitary gland to release luteinising hormone (LH) which prompts the Leydig cells in the testes to produce testosterone.
As you age, this process is affected, both in the brain and in the testes :
- Leydig cells decrease in number and become less responsive to LH.
- The hypothalamus releases less gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). GnRH is required to stimulate the pituitary gland to release LH.
Getting older also makes you more prone to certain conditions which can also affect the way these organs and glands communicate, such as:
- Liver and kidney disease
Normally, when testosterone levels get too high, the body detects this and prevents more being made. Finally, it’s thought that this negative feedback loop becomes overly sensitive with time, preventing testosterone release, even when testosterone levels are not particularly raised .
Find out more about the causes of low testosterone.
What is a normal testosterone level for my age?
A normal testosterone level for adult men is around 8.7–29 nmol/L (250–836 ng/dL). Most UK laboratories will use reference intervals similar to this. These values don’t take your symptoms, baseline levels, or age-related decline into account. But your doctor will consider this when interpreting your levels. If your testosterone levels are less than 12 nmol/L and you have symptoms, you may benefit from testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).
A 2022 study looked at testosterone levels of 1,486 men between the ages of 20 and 44 . To calculate the normal testosterone level for each age bracket, they took the middle third and labelled these as normal results (according to the American Urological Association’s definition of normal testosterone):
|Age||Testosterone (nmol/L)||Testosterone (ng/dL)|
As this data takes the middle third as normal, these normal ranges may be too narrow. As more data becomes available, it’s likely that the reference ranges for testosterone will improve to include age-specific values.
But perhaps what’s more important is the overall trend of your testosterone level and whether you have symptoms. If you have no symptoms but are at the lower end of normal, this may well be normal for you.
A cross-sectional cohort study on 434 men  found that symptoms were more likely when testosterone levels fell below the following levels:
- 15 nmol/L – reduced energy levels
- 12 nmol/L – weight gain
- 10 nmol/L – low mood
- 8 nmol/L – erectile dysfunction
Do I need TRT?
A low testosterone level alone isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm. For example, a 50-year-old man with testosterone levels of 8.5 nmol/l but no symptoms would unlikely benefit from treatment, even though his levels are outside the normal range. And often, switching to a healthier lifestyle is enough to improve testosterone levels naturally.
The decision to start testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) will depend on the outcome of your assessment with your doctor. But these thresholds from the British Society for Sexual Medicine (BSSM)  might be useful to help you understand your results:
- Testosterone levels greater than 12 nmol/L typically don’t require treatment
- Testosterone levels between 8 – 12 nmol/L (or 8–14 nmol/L if you have pre-diabetes) might require a trial of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) if there are symptoms of testosterone deficiency. In these cases, it’s useful to check free testosterone levels, often with other male sex hormones.
- Testosterone levels less than 8 nmol/L usually require treatment
Occasionally, testosterone levels are normal but there are still symptoms of testosterone deficiency. In these cases, a full sex hormone screen is useful, including free testosterone (FT), luteinising hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). In these instances, LH may be raised or SHBG may be low.
Finding that your testosterone levels are very low, though, doesn’t automatically mean that you need treatment.
How can I check my testosterone levels?
Both tests are finger-prick tests that you can take at home. Make sure you take your sample in the morning (ideally 7–10 am) as testosterone levels are highest at this time of day. If your result is borderline or abnormal, you may be asked to repeat it to confirm.
Find out more about how to take a finger-prick blood test.
How can I minimise the rate of declining testosterone?
There’s no need to panic if your testosterone levels are gradually declining — this is a normal part of ageing. However, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to prevent testosterone levels from dropping more quickly:
- Lose weight if you’re overweight — Being overweight decreases testosterone by increasing insulin resistance, reducing sex hormone binding globulin, and suppressing the testosterone-regulating centres in the brain. Having low testosterone itself leads to an accumulation of body fat over lean mass creating a self-perpetuating cycle .
- Keep active — Both aerobic activities and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are good ways to increase testosterone levels for older men [10, 11].
- Reduce alcohol intake — Alcohol abuse reduces testosterone levels  and can lead to weight gain. So, avoid drinking over the recommended 14 units per week.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet — Cut down on fried and processed foods. Instead, opt for plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, seafood, and wholegrain produce .
- Avoid anabolic steroids — Anabolic steroids can lead to long-term problems including decreased testosterone levels in later years [14, 15].
Visit our male hormone guide for more ways to boost your testosterone levels naturally.
Even if you’re living the healthiest lifestyle possible, for a very small percentage of men, their levels will still drop into a range that causes symptoms. This is often due to an underlying cause. In these cases, testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) may be beneficial.
Testosterone levels and age
Despite the growing trends in testosterone therapy, there’s no need to worry or obsess over your testosterone levels.
If you have symptoms of testosterone deficiency, by all means, check your levels and consult your doctor. Otherwise, be reassured that testosterone levels can gradually decline as you get older.
Where to get tested for low testosterone
If you’re concerned that your testosterone levels are low and you’d like to get tested for low testosterone, then a simple home blood test to measure your testosterone levels is a good place to start.
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