So you got your lab work done, and your doctor says that your testosterone levels are ‘normal’.
What does that mean, exactly?
US labs typically measure testosterone in nanograms per deciliter (ng/ dL). Most of them consider anything between 348 and 1197 ng/dL ‘normal’ when it comes to testosterone, although reference ranges can vary slightly between labs.
The problem with this is that those so-called normal levels encompass a vast variety of men who have tested at that particular lab. The numbers don’t take into account a man’s age or fitness level. The levels in the reference ranges encompass guys in their 20’s … and guys in their 80’s! Skinny guys … and fat guys. Guys who are fit … and guys who are not. Your level may be normal … for an 80-year-old man in bad shape! This obviously doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Normal doesn’t mean optimal when it comes to T levels.
A common scenario I’ve seen played out over and over again is that a guy (or his wife) suspects he has low T and he finally goes to his primary care office to get it tested. The primary care doc reluctantly writes the lab order and when it comes back at, say 348ng/dL, the doctor says, “Your testosterone is normal.” What this means is that a lot of guys go home from their doctor’s office feeling like hypochondriacs. At this point, they don’t know what else to do so they drop the subject and do nothing. This means they don’t get the help they need and nothing gets any better.
Table 1 breaks down testosterone levels by age. You can actually have half as much testosterone as you did when you were 20, and still be considered ‘normal’. But there is nothing normal about how you feel at this level!
|Age||Total T (ng/dL)||Free T (ng/dL)|
Table 1 Source: Androgens and the Aging Male. Ed. Bjorn Oddens and Alex Vermeulen. New York: The Parthenon Publishing Group Inc., 1996. Print.
Something to remember is that charts are broken down by percentiles. In a reference range of 348-1197ng/dL, for example; 348 is in the bottom 10th percentile of the range and 1197 is in the top 10th percentile. All of the numbers in between are reported as ‘normal’. This is a huge span, however! Certainly the guy in the 10th percentile doesn’t feel anywhere near as well as the guy in the 90th percentile. A guy can be in the 10th percentile on the chart and be considered ‘normal’. But he’s still lower than 90% of other men.
You really don’t want to be in the 10th percentile for a hormone as vital as testosterone!
If you’ve had your levels checked, and they’re ‘normal’ but not optimal, check out the links below.