What Menopausal Women Should Know About Testosterone
In women, testosterone helps provide a sense of wellbeing, improves sex drive, and helps maintain vaginal mucosa and bone tissue. It is also involved in heart health, and maintenance of skin elasticity and muscle mass.
Testosterone levels in men differ from that of women.
Some examples of symptoms for low testosterone levels include....
Tendency to pull a muscle or get leg cramps, decrease in physical stamina, and a decrease in muscle size, tone and strength.
These symptoms may seem normal for someone entering middle age. However many symptoms correspond extremely well with the expected results of hormonal deprivation.
For instance, lower levels of estrogen and testosterone have serious deleterious effects on the proper functioning of the brain, resulting in a decreased mental sharpness. It's imporant to note the "sex" hormones are also brain hormones.
How Testosterone Levels in Women are Different
Women have approximately 1/5 to 1/10 the amount of testosterone found in men, which explains why men have more muscle mass than women. Testosterone can be converted to estradiol via the enzyme aromatase. This conversion is particularly pronounced in women with a high percentage of body fat because aromatase is found in fat cells.
Level of DHEA Influences Testosterone
Before menopause, about half the circulating testosterone comes from DHEA, which is produced by the adrenal glands. Adrenal imbalance or chronic illness can lead to low DHEA, which can contribute to low testosterone. This problem is more acute after menopause or after removal of the ovaries, because the ovaries no longer contribute to testosterone production.
Cortisol is Key to the Function of Androgens
Research activity on androgen replacement in women has increased in the past few years, particularly in women who have had their ovaries removed. Cortisol plays a key role in androgen function. Studies indicate that cortisol and testosterone work on the same genes, but in opposite ways. In other words, a woman with normal testosterone but an elevated cortisol level could show symptoms of low testosterone. This is an example of a functional deficiency.
The level of a hormone may be normal, but the system functions as if the hormone level was low. This is why it is important to look at a broad range of hormones, in order to uncover the hidden problems.