Men who use testosterone replacement therapies have a “substantial” risk of having a heart attack, says Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, a Mayo Clinic researcher involved in a new study published in the journal PLOS One.
The report is one of a series of new studies looking into the long-term effects of testosterone therapy, a treatment that has increased dramatically in popularity in recent years.
The study involving 56,000 men found that older men using testosterone supplements were twice as likely to have a heart attack, and younger men with heart disease were nearly three times as likely to have heart problems.
“That’s the equivalent to smoking one or two packs of cigarettes a day, or having sky-high cholesterol,” Lopez-Jimenez says.
Testosterone therapy is prescribed to men who have low levels of testosterone resulting in symptoms such as a low libido, weight gain, a reduction in muscle mass and fatigue. Studies have shown that the male hormone can also improve these symptoms as well as lower cholesterol and insulin resistance.
Drug companies peddling testosterone products such as Testim, AndroGel and Axiron have capitalized on this early research, launching marketing campaigns encouraging men to ask their doctors if they may have “Low T” and thus be a candidate for testosterone therapy. Until recently, the long-term effects were somewhat unknown.
A study published recently in Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the number of men taking testosterone has more than tripled in the past decade, and many of those taking the supplements had never had their testosterone levels checked. This has raised questions whether many men were using the treatment without actually needing it.
Even more bothersome, the study also found that older men who used testosterone replacement therapies for a three-year period were 33 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke, or die from any cause.
Cardiologist Steven Nissen, chair of cardiovascular medicine at Cleveland Clinic, says that hormone replacement therapies (HRT) should be prescribed and taken with caution. He referenced HRT that was widely prescribed to women for decades before studies showed women using the hormones were at greater risk of developing breast cancer and other health problems.
Source: USA Today