You probably wouldn’t know it from the male-targeted advertisements pushing hormone supplements to boost “Low T,” but testosterone therapy can provide similar benefits for women. The question is, does it also carry the same risk of heart attacks, strokes and death in women as it does for men?
Testosterone is considered the male hormone, responsible for the maturation of the testis and prostate as well as the development of sexual characteristics such as increased muscle, bone mass and body hair. In general, adult men have about 7-8 times more testosterone pumping through their bodies than adult females.
Estrogen, considered the primary female hormone, is responsible for female characteristics such as the development of breasts and regulating the menstrual cycle. Estrogen is also present in men but is found in higher levels in women.
As men and women age, levels of testosterone and estrogen drop, which has been blamed for symptoms such as low libido, loss of muscle mass and bone density, weight gain and mood swings. For decades, doctors have prescribed hormone replacement therapy for women, boosting levels of estrogen and, in some cases, progestin. The practice has dropped off in recent years after studies showed the treatment increased the risk of breast cancer, heart attacks, strokes and dementia.
Until recently, use of testosterone supplements has been reserved for men with a condition known as hypogonadism, a condition in which the testis produce little or no testosterone. In recent years, drug companies have begun heavily marketing testosterone replacement products, such as AndroGel, Testim and Axiron, encouraging men to talk to their doctors to see if they would benefit from testosterone supplements. The advertising campaigns worked, pushing annual sales of testosterone drugs from the millions into the billions of dollars in the past 10 years.
Researchers have also begun to wonder if the loss of testosterone, not estrogen, may be to blame for many symptoms of menopause such as weight gain, fatigue, and the loss of mental focus, bone density and muscle tone. Testosterone therapy is not approved in the United States to treat women, however doctors have the authority to write prescriptions for unapproved conditions. And some do. The hormone has been shown to be especially beneficial for some women with breast cancer.
Just as HRT for women appeared to be the wonder drug of the generation, testosterone therapy has been applauded for its benefits of boosting libido, increasing muscle mass, and improving overall mood. However, new studies have begun to raise questions about the long-term health risks.
New research shows that older men who use testosterone treatment for a three year period are about one-third more likely than men not taking the supplements to have a heart attack, stroke, or die from any cause. Another study shows that older men with heart disease double their risk of cardiovascular events by taking the products. These studies has prompted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to launch an investigation into the safety of testosterone supplements.
Could testosterone treatment increase heart risk in women? Unfortunately, the lack of studies leaves that question unanswered. Women – and men – considering any type of hormone therapy are encouraged to do their own research and discuss the potential risks with their doctors.
Source: Huffington Post