Low Testosterone is more prevalent than you may think. How does this affect our veterans — who are not exempt from many conditions plaguing the general public? With men’s health under the magnifying glass this month, it’s worth exploring how low testosterone may impact veterans.
Conditions like diabetes and obesity continue to increase the number of patients with low testosterone. Several studies conducted found that men with diabetes were more likely to develop testosterone deficiency — in contrast to their non-diabetic counterparts, who presented with smaller percentages of low T.
With diabetes and obesity increasing at steady rates, men’s health suffers a decline — and so do our veterans. Signs of low testosterone in veterans, or men in general, include fatigue, erectile dysfunction, low libido, weight gain, and depression.
A study on erectile dysfunction in 367 military servicemen actually found that they were triple as likely to suffer from the condition. Researchers attributed this to experiencing traumatic events while away on deployments and going through an array of mental or physical health issues.
Coping with low T symptoms can create a strain on any relationship and affect family ties. So how exactly does low testosterone in veterans play out?
Common Low Testosterone Symptoms
Testosterone levels begin to dip as you reach your 40s and continue their gradual decline as you age. Therefore, low T is fairly common, especially if you’re over 45 years of age — which includes low testosterone in veterans. Understanding the symptoms is thus critical in reaching out to a healthcare provider if needed.
Symptoms can include anything from low libido to erectile dysfunction to feeling drained and fatigued. But since low T marks a hormonal imbalance it can also lead to depressive symptoms and adversely affect your mental state — exacerbating post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) in veterans, while simultaneously worsening your stress response and anxiety levels.
Changes in your testosterone can further lead to weight gain and increase your risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Low Testosterone in Veterans: How it Affects You
Some unique stressors plaguing our veterans can throw hormone secretion out of balance. Post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries can significantly impact your hormone production, including that of testosterone. Thus, low testosterone is not uncommon in veterans and has a wide range of underlying causes.
A study that used data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) found a significant difference in levels of well-being and pain experiences among veterans and their counterparts. According to data collected, about 65.5% of US military veterans reported pain within the past 3 months versus 56.4% of non-military members.
Similarly, higher rates of severe pain were reported by veterans versus their non-veteran counterparts (9.1% vs. 6.4%), marking an example of how military service can affect your quality of life and dictate some of the stressors that will accompany you — even after you retire from the military.
Periods of stress, especially some of the extreme stress many of our service members experience during deployment or on duty, can raise your cortisol levels — with research pointing at it further decreasing your testosterone.
So how does low testosterone affect the life of veterans after their military service has come to an end?
Your Personal Life
Testosterone deficiency can create some sexual difficulties for couples as it can decrease your sex drive and limit your ability to maintain an erection. This could mean that you might have to find other ways to communicate to your spouse feelings of love and emotional connectedness.
But as some veterans might come to find out, low testosterone doesn’t stop at physical intimacy. Symptoms like irritability, mood changes, and depressive behaviors can exert a further strain on your relationship — and your family life as a whole.
With progressing symptoms, it can become difficult for family members to find ways of coping as increasing fatigue and mood changes can lead to a potential lack of interest in certain activities. This can reduce some valuable family time and weaken the bond between members of the family or father and child.
Spotting the symptoms is thus an important first step. Veterans can then have their low testosterone detected via a quick lab test and if necessary, your doctor can put you on testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) to help boost your levels.
Your Work-Life After Serving in the Military
For veterans, low testosterone can lead to lower work performance due to lingering fatigue and less energy. Functioning with a full charge may be difficult without testosterone replacement therapy if your levels are low and clinically significant.
Low testosterone can further affect your memory and your ability to concentrate on certain tasks. If you’re working in a physically demanding job, you might also notice less physical strength — which can be due to decreased energy levels and reduced muscle mass.
While your work performance may be impacted by changes in your hormone levels, use the signs and symptoms as indicators and know it might be time to reach out to your doctor.
Men’s health is imperative, particularly for veterans who have spent much of their lives under heightened stress conditions and mental health challenges.
Men’s Health in Veterans: What YOU Can Do to Keep Healthy
Testosterone levels decline with age, so naturally men over the age of 45 have a higher chance of developing testosterone deficiency. Learning about men’s health, specifically veterans’ men’s health challenges, therefore, is imperative in understanding what you can do about your condition.
A study conducted in men aged 45 years and older, found that out of patients seeking care at a primary care physician’s office, almost 40% had low testosterone. And the truth is, veterans are no exception.
To do your part, maintain a healthy diet, exercise consistently, and avoid consuming too much alcohol. While there may be some stigma surrounding low testosterone in veterans, know that you can always reach out to your doctor if you’re experiencing any symptoms.
You’ve put your country first your whole life, it’s time to focus on your health now. You got this!
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