I Hate All That Green Crap

 

Photo Credit: Mitch Altman, Barcelona Smoothies

Photo Credit: Mitch Altman, Barcelona Smoothies

Okay, this is embarrassing to admit, but I hate vegetables. Most vegetables, anyway. Especially all those green, leafy veggies that are so good for you and prevent cancer and all that. I want to like them. I try to like them. They seem so appealing when I watch other people eat them. All that raw, crunchy goodness. But then I put them in my mouth and eew, yuck … disgusting bitterness.

I used to watch people eat all those lovely green salads with apparent enjoyment and I thought they were faking it. Like it was this huge conspiracy against me, everyone pretending to enjoy food that was obviously horrible-tasting.

I eventually realized that it wasn’t everyone else who was weird, it was me. ;-)

Even given my Green Hate, I was trying to make changes to get to a healthier lifestyle, and I knew that I really really needed all the micronutrients and anti-oxidants that veggies offer, so I decided I would learn to like vegetables. After all, if everyone else could, so could I. My husband and I started on a campaign to change my taste buds. He’s a veggie lover and he decided to start me off with broccoli. He served it to me raw with ranch. Eew. He tried it cooked, with butter. Yuck. Smothered with cheese. Sure, the cheese was okay … as long as you ditched the broccoli. Finally, he gave it to me with bacon. After all, bacon can make everything better, right? Not so much. My taste buds just don’t like veggies.

I talked to my integrative doctor about it and she told me I was probably a Super-Taster. Which bummed me out at first, but then she gave me a work-around.

Green Smoothies. 

Which initially sounded horrible. Because … you know …. green. My doctor promised me that the intense flavor of the fruit in a smoothie would cover up the taste of things like spinach and cucumber. I didn’t believe her at first, but I tried it and she is absolutely right!

So now I drink a green smoothie every morning and get my veggies that way. And I hardly taste the vegetables at all. One concern I had about green smoothies is that the relatively small amount of vegetables I use doesn’t suffice for a whole day’s worth of veggie consumption. My doctor told me that the act of pureeing vegetables in a blender actually increases the nutrients available to your body, so that small amount of vegetables in your smoothie is fairly big in nutrition.

If you’re like me and are trying to increase your veggie intake, give it a try. It’s not a perfect solution and I still wish that I liked the taste of vegetables, but it’s the best substitute I’ve found so far for those of us who loathe the taste of green.

Here’s one of my favorite morning smoothies:

  • Frozen strawberries
  • Fresh spinach
  • Raw cucumber, peeled
  • Frozen blueberries (they give a great color and keep your smoothie from looking like mud)
  • Fresh or bottled lime juice
  • 1 tsp of sugar (I know I should omit this, but I’m a wimp. I need it.)

I put everything in my blender and whir away and in a minute or two, I have breakfast ready. Delicious and nutritious.

TIPS:  If you absolutely hate the taste of veggies, start off with a lot of fruit and just a little bit of vegetables. Spinach and cucumber are pretty mild, kale is stronger-tasting. One of the downsides of a smoothie is that you’re getting a lot of sugar with all that fruit, so try to cut out sugar in the rest of your diet to compensate. You can also add cinnamon to your smoothie which evens out blood sugar highs and lows.

Are You Aging Yourself by 15 Years?

14445438535_106848c10e_zReader Question:  I am 39 years old, and have always been thin. I wanted to start building muscle to attract my wife, but wasn’t getting great results.  

I decided to get a physical to see what was going on. I really didn’t think there was any problem with my testosterone levels because my libido and everything else seem okay, but I got it tested just for the heck of it. It was a huge shock when my levels came back at 261! I had no idea I was so low. 

My lifestyle in general is pretty healthy. I eat clean, am pretty active and have never been overweight. We go to bed late most nights; I probably average about 5 hours of sleep a night. Could that be what’s affecting my testosterone levels?

 

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This is a question I get fairly often and the answer is YES!! Losing sleep for even a short time can lower your testosterone substantially. In fact, in one study, a group of healthy guys in their 20’s who went short on sleep for only 8 days lowered their testosterone levels by the same amount as if they had aged 10-15 years! That’s a fairly sobering reality.

Poor sleep quality and lack of sleep are known endocrine disruptors and play havoc with not only testosterone, but also thyroid levels. Thyroid and testosterone deficiency affect energy, ability to focus, libido, anxiety levels and muscle gains.

In addition, losing sleep can make you fat. One important study showed that losing just a few hours of sleep for just a few nights in a row causes the average person to gain about 2 pounds. Depriving yourself of sleep for even one night affects the way you respond to junk food, making you respond more strongly to the temptation to eat it and giving you less impulse control.

The take-away here is that if you’re struggling to focus at work, gaining weight or not making gains in the gym, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to get some sleep. Studies show us that 8 hours is optimal for most people.

Photo Credit

Pulling Him In

You can read Part 1 & Part 2 of this story, but the TL;DR version is that during his low testosterone years, my husband had become disconnected from what was going on in our family and had stopped being the leader in our marriage. He had long since fixed the low T, but our dynamics were still skewed toward me making the bulk of the decisions for our family. We both wanted that to change, but needed tools to help us.

I heard my husband’s footsteps on the stairs.

“Will, you need to tell Dad about getting the scholarship,” I said.

“Hunh? Dad doesn’t care about that kind of stuff,” Will responded.

“Sure he does. When he knows about it, that is. He can’t care if he doesn’t even know what’s going on,” I said.

My husband poked his head in the door. “Hey, I’m going to take a coffee break. What are you two doing?”

“Will was just telling me that his scholarship got increased,” I replied. “Tell Dad about it, Will.”

“Yeah, let me get my coffee and then tell me about it,” responded my husband.

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Tyler put down the phone, his face all smiles. “Mom, I got the new co-op position!”

“Yay! That’s great, Tyler!”

“It’s the perfect job for me, much better than the old co-op position,” he said excitedly and went on to discuss the details of the job.

After we had thoroughly hashed it out, Tyler got up and said, “Okay, I’ve got to go write a thank you e-mail to my co-op coordinator at school for helping me set up the interview and let him know I got the job.”

“Make sure to send Dad a text to let him know you got it, as well,” I suggested. “He’ll be excited to hear the news.”

“Oh, okay,” replied Tyler, looking a little surprised. “That’s a good idea.”

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“Coach said I couldn’t wrestle for 72 hours until the medicine kills the ringworm,” said our high schooler, Trey.

“Crap, what about the wrestling tournament on Monday?” I asked.

“I have to miss it. And Dad was planning to go to this one straight from work so he could watch me wrestle,” Trey replied gloomily.

“Well, there will be others he can go to,” I said.

Ringworm had been an on-going problem on the wrestling team, with the guys passing it back and forth to each other. Trey was trying to make the varsity team and each practice and tournament he missed decreased his chance of getting that varsity spot.

Trey was already in bed by the time my husband got home late that night, exhausted from a long day at work and an intense work-out. He and I exchanged short conversation about our days while he had a quick snack and then the two of us went to bed. It wasn’t until the next afternoon that I realized that I hadn’t filled him in on Trey’s change in wrestling plans. Whoops! I should have had Trey send him a quick text to update him on the situation. I would need to send him a text myself.

Note to self: If you want your husband to take a leadership role in the family, you need to remember to keep him in the loop with what’s going on with the kids. A leader can’t lead if he’s not getting the right information funnelled to him.

For the longest time, I had felt a void in our marriage because my husband seemed disconnected from what was going on in our family. It was lonely and a little scary to always be taking care of things on my own. There had been times when I had felt like a single mom when it came to making decisions and I had frequently felt disappointed with my husband for not taking more of an interest in what was going on. I didn’t recognize that there were structural issues in the way of him taking more of a leadership role and I didn’t realize that I could help change the dynamics by keeping him plugged into what was going on at home. It was an epiphany to me to realize that I could take an active role in changing our dynamics, rather than simply wait for him to step up to the plate.

Over time, I have gradually become much better at keeping my husband in the loop with what’s going on at home and with the kids. I send a lot more quick texts now than I ever did before. We have a planning meeting every week where we keep track of our goals, as well as making plans for the upcoming week. It hasn’t been a quick 180 for us to change our dynamics, but gradually, over time, we have been able to say good-bye to Mr. Disappearing Man. And to be honest, neither of us miss him at all. :-)

The Loop

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Part 1 here.

 

Loop — A shape produced by a curve that bends around and crosses itself. A structure, series or process the end of which is connected to the beginning

Keeping (him) in the loop — To furnish someone with sufficient relevant information and include them in the decision-making process

 

 

“Wow, that’s great, Will!” I said excitedly. “I can’t believe they bumped up your scholarship from 90% to 100%. You’ve done so well in your classes. Congratulations!”

“Yeah, and they actually changed it from a scholarship to a grant!” Will replied.

“Wait, I don’t get it. What’s the difference?”

“Well, I’m not sure, but they said that the grant was a lot better than the scholarship. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe it covers college fees along with the regular tuition?” Will guessed.

“Okay, sounds like we’ll need to do some research and figure out what all it covers, and how it ….” I trailed off as my 15 year old walked in the room.

“Mom, can I go to the Homecoming Dance?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“Excellent! Jessica’s going to be there,” he replied.

“Oh, did you ask her if she would go out with you?”

“Yeah, I did last night at the Homecoming Game,” he replied. “She said ‘yes’!”

“That’s great, honey. She seems like a really nice girl.”

“MOM!” Our 12 year old burst through the front door. “I was drafted on the neighborhood football team and Ben said I have a lot of talent! He played me for all four quarters.! I really really want to try out for the school football team next year. You told me you would think about it. I’m old enough now.”

My heart sank. I had hoped that he would forget about wanting to try out for football. I hated the thought of him getting hurt.

“Wellllll,” I began. “Let me think about it and …”

 

I paused as a sudden realization struck me. My husband was in the garage working and wasn’t hearing any of these conversations. I thought about the myriad of conversations that took place with the kids that he never heard. No wonder he never knew what was going on. And then I started thinking back to the low T years and all the things I had tried to spare him. Broken windows, and appliances that were making funny noises. Kids’ misbehavior and financial woes. School open houses and extra-curriculars. I tried to handle all of those things because he was so overwhelmed and exhausted all the time.

Those were dark years for him and he had struggled simply to keep things on track at work. In an effort to support him, I had taken on more and more on the domestic front. I simply made decisions and moved on. By the time we saw each other in the evenings, we were both out of energy, and communication was minimal. Plus, there was so much anger and resentment between us over our sexual dysfunction that there were many nights we didn’t talk at all; we just retreated to our separate corners.

Wow! The realization hit me forcefully. Our dynamics were really dysfunctional! The way we had done things during the low T years had been necessary to a certain extent, but our situation was completely different, now. My husband was full of energy and completely capable of taking charge and making decisions. If I wanted him take a leadership role in our family, I had to do my part and provide him with the tools to do so. In this case, one tool was information. I needed to make sure that he had access to the same information about the kids that I did.

But how to do that? He still worked long hours and on the nights he worked out, he came home completely wiped. Plus, so much of the important stuff happened in little snippets here and there and by the time evening rolled around and we saw each other again, I had no recollection of what had gone on during the day. What was the best way to keep him in the loop?

Continued here.

Photo Credit:  Luz, Loops

Mr. Disappearing Man

medium_2898021822“I think that’s the phone,” my husband said and walked away to answer it. No huge surprise there. Mr. Disappearing Man.

I watched his back for a moment, and then turned back to my son. “Don’t worry about your co-op position falling through, sweetheart. Get some good sleep and tomorrow we’ll figure out other ways to fund next semester’s tuition.”

Later, as I was lying on the bed, thinking of possible solutions to our son’s problem, my husband joined me. He started rubbing and stroking, pushing aside clothing, kissing the back of my neck. Deep in thought, I didn’t respond.

“What’s the matter?” he asked. “Are you tired?”

I was silent for a while, torn between simply agreeing that I was tired and actually telling him the truth. There’s always a risk to sharing an unpleasant truth with a recovering ‘Nice Guy’. Sometimes my husband could accept it, but sometimes he would get incredibly defensive and snarky. Or shut down altogether and completely lose his mojo for a few days. It was tough to know how to tell the truth with love in a way that was productive and didn’t tear him down.

“I’m thinking about the conversation we just had with Tyler. He’s really worried about his co-op position getting canceled and losing a large portion of his college funding.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it.  It’ll all work out,” my husband replied casually, never pausing in what he was doing.

I sat up, struggling with a rising sense of anger. My husband had this secret door through which he disappeared when problems arose. I wished that I could find that door and be the one who got to disappear while someone else did the work of figuring out solutions.

“No,” I said carefully, “it won’t all work out. Eight thousand dollars won’t magically appear out of thin air.”

“Well, what is it you want me to do about it? I don’t have any magic solutions. You worry too much,” he responded irritably.

Losing respect for a man is a funny thing. There’s an almost physical sensation as your stomach gets heavy and a weight feels like it presses against your shoulders. It’s not that I was surprised by his reaction. My husband hated conflict and he hated problems. He preferred to ignore an unpleasant situation and just wait it out, hoping for the best. ‘Being an optimist’ is how he referred to it.

I stopped to consider how to respond. Was there even a way to help him understand how I was feeling without being accusatory and negative and making the situation worse?

“I want you to not disappear on me. I know you don’t have any solutions, but neither do I. I want you to tell me, ‘Hey, hon, we’ll sit down tomorrow and help our son figure this thing out.’ I want to feel like I’m not in this all alone. During your low T years, it fell to me to solve the problems and figure out solutions. You were basically checked out for a long time. With 5 kids, it’s too much for one person. It’s just too much. Especially now with both of us working. I’m really tired.”

It was his turn to fall silent. He finally said, “I know that I’ve left you holding the bag a lot. The truth is that if I don’t know how to fix a problem, I ignore it because it makes me feel like a loser to not be able to fix something. In this case, I don’t know what to do to fix Tyler’s co-op situation, so I just walked away. You’ve always managed to get everything worked out with the kids, so it was easier to let you do it. We just got into this pattern where you would be the one to fix things. Half the time, I don’t even know what’s going on with the kids. Sometimes I feel like I’m just here to pay the bills.”

I considered what he had said. There was some truth there. He worked long hours, and he was usually gone when most problems came up. During the low T years, I had learned not to rely on him because by the time he got home from work, he was exhausted and incapable of handling more problems. Now that his low testosterone issues were fixed, it was time to change our dysfunctional pattern of coping with problems, but how?

Part 2 and Part 3.

Photo Credit

Facing the Lions

You know how it is when your brain is working on a new concept and all around you, the world keeps throwing you examples?

That’s how it’s been for me for the last few months. I’ve been studying the concept of how people learn new behaviors and what makes some people more successful than others at changing. And it turns out that the people who are the best at learning new things are the people who aren’t afraid to take risks and aren’t afraid to fail.

Recently, I came across this video. It’s about a tribe in Africa where the hunters aren’t able to take down a large animal because they lack the resources to make strong bows and arrows. So, instead, they ……. well, watch it for yourself.

Just an incredible clip. The thing that strikes me the most forcibly is that the only tool they have is …. a lack of fear. They totally have to bluff the lions and the slightest show of fear would render the whole bluff useless. After watching that, all of our usual excuses about why we can’t do x, or how doing y is just impossible because of z, are pretty lame, aren’t they?

We all need to be doing things we’re afraid of. That should be part of your goals each and every week. Find something you’re afraid to do …. and then go out and do it. And keep doing it until you’re not afraid, anymore.

For me, the obstacle I’m working to overcome right now is a literal obstacle. At the gym, I’m working to conquer the box jump. For whatever reason, I’m really afraid to jump up on that stupid box. I have no idea why. My trainer says it’s a really common fear in women. I keep working on it and eventually, I will conquer the fear and become a great box jumper. :-)

What about you? When’s the last time you did something you’re afraid of? When’s the last time you challenged yourself to do something you didn’t think you could do?

Go find that thing that makes your heart pound in your chest and your stomach have butterflies. Go face the lions. 

 

Conversations from the Gym

So, why do you think that is? Do you think it’s because of all the media that portrays men as clueless idiots?

Yeah, maybe that plays into it, but no, I think the biggest thing is that men don’t fight tigers, anymore.

There were only 4 of us left after our workout; Brian, the gym owner/trainer, another woman, another guy and me. We were stretching out after an intense workout and had fallen into desultory conversation that had taken a more introspective turn.

The question came up as to why so many men were so afraid to take risks. Brian said that over the decades he had been training men in martial arts and physical fitness, the men he coached were increasingly reluctant to take risks or to push themselves to excel.

“I don’t know. It’s like they want everything handed to them. If it’s too much work, forget it, they’d rather go home and play video games.”

We talked about how the reluctance to take risks bleeds out from the gym into their personal lives, careers and relationships. And we talked about the fact that men who are afraid to take risks are less attractive to women.

Other Woman, with a dawning light of comprehension     You know, I never thought about it, but that’s the main thing that attracted me to my husband. He never put up with my crap. I always knew he was strong enough to handle me.

Me        Yeah, now that my husband is doing MMA, he is so much stronger, not just physically, but mentally. He stands up to me more than he ever did, he’s not afraid to argue with me anymore. It’s really sexy. MMA has changed him more than any other single thing he has done.   

The other guy was mostly silent throughout the conversation. But I hope he was taking it all in.

Changing the world, one little conversation at a time.

 

 

Good-Bye to the Sun

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First Day of Fall.

For those of us in the Northern hemisphere, that means it’s getting tough to get any Vitamin D from the sun. The sun’s altitude has to be 50 degrees or higher in order to provide you with Vitamin D. So, in Chicago, for example, your window for getting Vitamin D from the sun closed on September 17 and won’t re-open again until March 25. New York? Fuggedaboutit. Not until March 22. My Canadian friends? Ha! Vitamin D for you is but a distant memory.

Even in my beloved south, our window has shrunk to a 3 hour period from noon to 3pm.

Time to start taking your Vitamin D.

Don’t put it off; it’s not complicated. Buy a bottle from the grocery store or Wal-Mart, put it next to your coffee maker so you don’t forget and take it every morning. You need about 50,000 units per week if you’re low (which most of us are). It doesn’t matter whether you take tablets or liquid. It doesn’t matter what brand. Full stomach, empty stomach, morning, noon or night. Doesn’t matter. Just take it.

Why is it important?

You can read about it here, but TL;DR version. Vitamin D is more like a hormone than a vitamin and is a precursor to testosterone production. It also helps prevent various types of cancer.

And yes, my Aussie friends, I can hear you gloating from here as your days get longer and warm weather arrives. Enjoy your season in the sun!

 

 

 

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Why I’ll Never Tell My Son He’s Smart … Sal Khan

Great post from Sal Khan, founder and owner of Khan Academy.

 

For those who don’t know Khan’s story, the TL;DR is that he’s a really smart guy from Metairie, Louisiana, who has 3 math/engineering/computer degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard. He worked in Silicon Valley and was a hedge fund analyst before starting Khan Academy from his home office.

 

I’ve talked before about how you can change your behaviors by consciously and mindfully practicing the behaviors you’re trying to master and how fear of failure holds us all back. Here and here.

 

Well, Sal said it a lot better than I did. If you don’t read anything else this week, take a look at what Sal Khan has to say. It will change the way you look at life.

 

 

My 5-year-­old son has just started reading. Every night, we lie on his bed and he reads a short book to me. Inevitably, he’ll hit a word that he has trouble with: last night the word was “gratefully.” He eventually got it after a fairly painful minute. He then said, “Dad, aren’t you glad how I struggled with that word? I think I could feel my brain growing.” I smiled: my son was now verbalizing the tell­-tale signs of a “growth­ mindset.” But this wasn’t by accident. Recently, I put into practice research I had been reading about for the past few years: I decided to praise my son not when he succeeded at things he was already good at, but when he persevered with things that he found difficult. I stressed to him that by struggling, your brain grows. Between the deep body of research on the field of learning mindsets and this personal experience with my son, I am more convinced than ever that mindsets toward learning could matter more than anything else we teach.

Researchers have known for some time that the brain is like a muscle; that the more you use it, the more it grows. They’ve found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones.

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What this means is that our intelligence is not fixed, and the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail.

However, not everyone realizes this. Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has been studying people’s mindsets towards learning for decades. She has found that most people adhere to one of two mindsets: fixed or growth. Fixed mindsets mistakenly believe that people are either smart or not, that intelligence is fixed by genes. People with growth mindsets correctly believe that capability and intelligence can be grown through effort, struggle and failure. Dweck found that those with a fixed mindset tended to focus their effort on tasks where they had a high likelihood of success and avoided tasks where they may have had to struggle, which limited their learning. People with a growth mindset, however, embraced challenges, and understood that tenacity and effort could change their learning outcomes. As you can imagine, this correlated with the latter group more actively pushing themselves and growing intellectually.

The good news is that mindsets can be taught; they’re malleable. What’s really fascinating is that Dweck and others have developed techniques that they call “growth mindset interventions,” which have shown that even small changes in communication or seemingly innocuous comments can have fairly long­-lasting implications for a person’s mindset. For instance, praising someone’s process (“I really like how you struggled with that problem”) versus praising an innate trait or talent (“You’re so clever!”) is one way to reinforce a growth ­mindset with someone. Process­ praise acknowledges the effort; talent­ praise reinforces the notion that one only succeeds (or doesn’t) based on a fixed trait. And we’ve seen this on Khan Academy as well: students are spending more time learning on Khan Academy after being exposed to messages that praise their tenacity and grit and that underscore that the brain is like a muscle.

The Internet is a dream for someone with a growth mindset. Between Khan Academy, MOOCs, and others, there is unprecedented access to endless content to help you grow your mind. However, society isn’t going to fully take advantage of this without growth mindsets being more prevalent. So what if we actively tried to change that? What if we began using whatever means are at our disposal to start performing growth mindset interventions on everyone we cared about? This is much bigger than Khan Academy or algebra — it applies to how you communicate with your children, how you manage your team at work, how you learn a new language or instrument. If society as a whole begins to embrace the struggle of learning, there is no end to what that could mean for global human potential.

And now here’s a surprise for you. By reading this article itself, you’ve just undergone the first half of a growth­-mindset intervention. The research shows that just being exposed to the research itself (­­for example, knowing that the brain grows most by getting questions wrong, not right­­) can begin to change a person’s mindset. The second half of the intervention is for you to communicate the research with others. We’ve made a video (above) that celebrates the struggle of learning that will help you do this. After all, when my son, or for that matter, anyone else asks me about learning, I only want them to know one thing. As long as they embrace struggle and mistakes, they can learn anything.

I’m Thinking About Testosterone Therapy, but It Scares the Hell Out of Me

 

Your labs came back saying your testosterone levels are low and you’re trying to decide whether to treat it. You know you should because you feel like crap all the time, but it really scares you because you’ve read that testosterone therapy can cause heart attacks and strokes for guys with certain risk factors. How do you know whether you’re at risk?

Great question. While testosterone therapy is safe for most guys, there are a handful of men out there who need to tread very carefully.

So, what puts you at higher risk from testosterone therapy?

One condition that absolutely puts you at risk when you start testosterone therapy is if you have a pre-existing clotting disorder. You can have this your whole life and never know it until you start using external testosterone. Testosterone therapy increases your production of red blood cells. That’s not necessarily a bad thing unless you have a clotting disorder. If you do, you can have major problems. As red blood cell count increases, the blood can thicken and cause high blood pressure. Thicker blood is more likely to form clots and clots can be really dangerous for you.

How do you know if you have a pre-existing clotting disorder?

There are simple blood tests your doctor can order to rule this out. The incidence of men having blood clots on testosterone therapy is not high; Dr. Charles Glueck estimates that roughly 1-2% of men taking testosterone therapy will develop a clot. While this is a very low percentage,  if you’re in this 1%, it’s vital that you find out. Dr. Glueck recommends four tests to check for a blood clotting disorder.

    • Factor V Leiden
    • Prothrombin gene
    • Factor VIII
    • Factor XI

In working with various men who are undergoing testosterone therapy, I haven’t seen a lot of HRT specialists order these tests prior to starting testosterone, so this is something you need to bring up with your doctor. I have seen a few who order the tests after starting external testosterone administration, but life-threatening clots can form as quickly as a month after testosterone therapy begins, so these tests need to be done before you start.

Any other risk factors to consider?

Estrogen Levels     You need to make sure that your doctor is carefully tracking your estradiol (estrogen) levels. Most experienced HRT doctors are going to do this, but I’ve seen a few who simply don’t understand the importance. The reason it’s important is that high estradiol levels can contribute to clotting problems. Your doctor needs to keep your estradiol levels optimal.

Blood Count     Another thing you need to monitor is your red blood cell count, your hemoglobin and your hematocrit since testosterone therapy can increase all these levels. If they rise too high, you may want to consider donating blood periodically to lower them.

Blood Pressure     You need to keep track of your blood pressure. Ideally, you want it to be below 120/80.

What’s the bottom line? Is testosterone therapy safe for me or not?

There really is no clear-cut answer to that question. No two people are exactly alike. Testosterone therapy has both benefits and risks. There are studies that seem to suggest that raising testosterone to therapeutic levels can actually improve your health. There is some data out there suggesting that it can be a problem for at least some men.

The problem with trying to study the benefits and risks of testosterone therapy is that it is tough to separate correlation from causation. For example, we know that men with low testosterone are at higher risk for heart issues, obesity, diabetes, and certain cancers. But does low testosterone actually cause these conditions or is it only correlative? Will taking testosterone therapy improve these conditions or not? None of this is clear at present. Maybe 5 or 10 years from now, we’ll have the answers. But that doesn’t help you right now.

In the end, every medical decision has risk.Increasing your testosterone levels may carry some risk for some men. Doing nothing and living with low testosterone levels also carries risk.

Much of it will depend on how badly your lowered testosterone levels are affecting you. I’ve talked with guys who were almost crippled by their low testosterone. It was affecting their careers, their marriages, and whether they wanted to get out of bed in the morning. After they started testosterone therapy, they were like new men. They became energized, vibrant, more productive and happier. For them, clearly testosterone therapy was worth the small risks it might present.

The most important recommendation I can give you is to please, please, please find a doctor who knows what he’s doing. One who knows which tests to administer and what he needs to monitor. That’s the single biggest risk preventor available.