We know how important testosterone can be for a man’s health and sexual well-being. However, the full scope of functions and biological processes impacted by testosterone is truly remarkable. Some of these include your cognitive function — with a potential link between testosterone and dementia.
From mood disorders and depressive symptoms to your cardiovascular health and muscle strength, testosterone is not your average hormone. Many symptoms of testosterone deficiency are profound and can influence your quality of life.
Testosterone naturally declines as you grow older — and so does your cognitive ability. Is it, therefore, a coincidence that low testosterone and dementia sometimes appear at the same time, or is testosterone truly associated with your cognitive health?
Let’s find out.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term used for an array of symptoms that can interfere with your daily activities and limit your life quality. It comprises memory loss, and the ability to speak, and further impacts both problem-solving and cognitive functioning.
In simpler terms, dementia affects your ability to think and go about life independently. It can extend to every aspect of your life and alter behavior patterns, your family life, emotions, and your relationship with your spouse.
Dementia progresses slowly and gradually with your cognitive ability steadily declining over time. While other conditions can influence memory and cognitive skills too, dementia permanently alters your brain, which causes symptoms to only worsen with time.
While certain risk factors for dementia, such as age and genes, cannot be influenced, research suggests that healthy lifestyle choices can contribute to a diminished risk of disease development.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 55 million people worldwide suffer from dementia, with 10 million new cases being added every single year.
Since dementia can lead to severe limitations, many people diagnosed with the illness lose their ability to live independently, requiring constant care and supervision. This is part of the reason why dementia has cost global economies 1.3 trillion US dollars in 2019 alone.
What Causes Dementia in the First Place?
While dementia can have numerous origins, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80% of all cases according to the WHO.
The variety of diseases leading to dementia cause significant and irreversible damage to brain cells with Alzheimer’s disease leading to a reduction in the brain’s size, eventually killing off countless brain cells. Currently, roughly 6.5 million people in the United States ages 65 and older suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
Vascular dementia is second in line in leading dementia causes after Alzheimer’s disease, which can trigger microscopic bleeding in the brain and reduce blood flow within.
Vascular dementia commonly occurs in individuals living with chronic heart disease or diabetes. Blood flow in the brain in vascular dementia patients is generally restricted due to either blood clots, ruptured blood vessels, or damage sustained from atherosclerosis.
The Relationship Between Testosterone and Dementia
Testosterone is a diverse hormone that impacts a multitude of functions — including cognitive function and memory. Research hints at testosterone and dementia being linked as aspects of your cognitive performance can be associated with the presence of adequate testosterone in your bloodstream.
Scientists hypothesize that an “optimal” level of testosterone can improve countless aspects of men’s cognitive health, alongside memory function and attention. They also found indirect evidence that for perfect visualspatial and visualperceptual function, this “optimal” testosterone level needs to be sustained.
While more research is required to thoroughly investigate any clinical implications, testosterone seems to provide protection against mild cognitive impairment.
It’s not clear whether low testosterone and declining cognitive function overlap only due to them both occurring naturally with men’s progressing age. However, many patients with Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment, present with low testosterone levels.
A systematic review conducted on the topic of testosterone and dementia found that lower levels of testosterone in aging men yielded a reduction in performance for certain cognitive skills. It also suggested that substituting testosterone may lead to moderately positive results for certain cognitive functions, including spatial awareness.
Despite more clinical trials needed to bridge the existing knowledge gap, researchers suggest that serum testosterone levels should consistently be monitored in aging men and that testosterone therapy may be used in hypogonadal men with mild cognitive impairment.
Are there Preventative Measures?
While you can’t necessarily influence all aspects of low testosterone and dementia, there are certainly proactive measures you can take to aim and preserve your cognitive health.
Easily enough, many of these factors are simple lifestyle choices that can help make a difference. A versatile Mediterranean-style diet is thought to slow down dementia and reduce your risk for cognitive impairment. Researchers further recommend limiting your consumption of alcohol as a study found a trend towards a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease in people who drank more alcohol.
Even as you get older or retire from your job, it’s crucial to keep your brain active and engaged. Whether that means reading a book, writing, playing games that engage your mind, or seeking social interactions. Cognitive stimulation has been shown to improve cognitive performance, language skills, and life quality.
Keep Your Mind Sharp
As you grow older, it might become more difficult for you to go about your normal daily routine as part of your natural aging process. Dwindling mobility and a life’s worth of experiences weigh on your body. However, low testosterone and dementia can exert an additional strain.
If you’ve been diagnosed with dementia, or have a close family member suffering from this life-altering disease, you know first-hand how demanding it might be to navigate life or how time-consuming it is to take care of a loved one with impaired cognitive abilities.
Remember to monitor your testosterone levels routinely and stay vigilant for any signs of cognitive decline, as well as symptoms of testosterone deficiency. Most importantly, keep your mind sharp, continue to engage with family and friends, and don’t give up on actively participating in life by stimulating your mind regularly.
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