Older men with common health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure may be twice as likely as other men their age to have low testosterone levels, according to a new study.

Researchers found more than a third of men aged 45 and over had low testosterone levels, and the odds of having low testosterone was much higher among those with chronic health problems.

They say the results suggest that common, age-related, chronic health problems in older men may mask underlying low testosterone levels and negatively affect their quality of life.

Low testosterone is also known as hypogonadism and affects an estimated 13 million men in the U.S. Symptoms of low testosterone in men include decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, loss of body and facial hair, weakened bones, increased body fat, and fatigue.

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Low Testosterone Common Among Older Men

In the study, published in the International journal of Clinical Practice, researchers looked at the prevalence of low testosterone levels among more than 2,100 men aged 45 and over who visited one of 130 different primary care practices in the U.S. for any reason during a two-week period.

Overall, the results showed that more than a third of the men had low testosterone levels (less than 300 ng/dl total testosterone or were on current testosterone treatment). The odds of having low testosterone were:

--2.4 times higher for obese men

--2.1 times higher for men with diabetes

--1.8 times higher for men with high blood pressure

Men with high cholesterol, prostate disease, and asthma were also more likely to have low testosterone than healthy men.

Researchers say low testosterone is often overlooked in men because they frequently ignore their symptoms or attribute them to other causes, such as aging or diseases associated with aging.

Researcher Thomas Mulligan, MD, of VAMC GRECC and the division of geriatrics at the University of Florida, and colleagues say the high prevalence of low testosterone in this study warrants consideration by primary health care providers.

However, there is controversy about the risks associated with the long-term safety of testosterone replacement therapy, especially among older men.

By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: Mulligan, T. International Journal of Clinical Practice, July 2006; vol 60: pp 762-769. News release, Daniel J. Edelman, Inc.