Millions of men may be at risk for heart attack or stroke by using testosterone therapy. According to the latest study published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers report that within 90 days of taking the hormone the risk of heart attack can double in men 65 and up.
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is a hormone produced by the testes and is responsible for the proper development of male sexual characteristics. Testosterone maintains bone growth, adequate levels of red blood cells, and sexual function in men.
Without the proper amount of testosterone a man can possibly lose his sex drive, experience erectile dysfunction, or experience depression.
Testosterone usually peaks during adolescence and early childhood, however with age the testosterone level gradually declines.
Where older men are concerned it is important to determine whether the declining testosterone levels are due to the drop in age or if it’s due to a disease, which may result in a males seeking testosterone therapy.
However, given the new information regarding a possible link to heart attack and stroke, the FDA is investigating testosterone therapies which have had no cardiovascular warnings and have been FDA approved for decades.
Testosterone therapy = stroke, heart attack, or death?
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in November of 2013, reports showed a 30 percent rise in the risk for stroke, heart attack, and early death in men age 60 and older who had been prescribed testosterone.
For some men the problem may just be older age, however doctors are prescribing medications for low testosterone and according to the NY Times 25 percent of prescriptions are written without checking the man’s hormonal levels.
What men should know
Testosterone boosting drugs are available in about five formulations including patches, gels, and injections.
The study published in the PLOS ONE journal found that among all the men who received testosterone therapy the risk for heart attack jumped 36 percent in the 90 days after starting to use the hormone compared to men during the one year prior to treatment.
According to Steven Nissen, MD department chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland clinic, men have higher rates of heart attacks than women do and testosterone may be a factor.
He also suggests that there is a plausible biological explanation for the association between using testosterone supplements and higher cardiovascular risk as observed in the studies.