Testosterone may be the reason why more men have heart attacks compared to women of the same age, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Testosterone is found in both men and women, though it is more prominent in men and is the principle male hormone. It is secreted by the testicles of men and plays a key role in the development of male reproductive tissues such as the testis and prostate, as well as promoting secondary sexual characteristics such as increased muscle and bone mass and the growth of body hair.
Testosterone is essential to health and well-being, but a new study shows that too much of a good thing can be dangerous to the heart. The study, conducted by researchers with the University of Edinburgh, examined the effects of testosterone on blood vessel tissue of laboratory mice and found that the hormone triggers cells from the blood vessels to develop calcifications. This can cause blood vessels to harden and thicken, requiring the heart to work harder to pump blood, a risk factor for heart disease.
Testosterone is produced naturally in the body, but it is also available by prescription. Testosterone replacement therapy is designed to boost levels of the hormone in men with low testosterone due to injury or defect, but many men have been prescribed the drug without necessarily registering low levels of the hormone. This has raised concerns because previous studies have linked testosterone replacement therapy to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and death.
“This study, in cells taken from mice and human tissue, provides new evidence that testosterone can increase calcification,” said Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, which helped fund the research. “But significantly more research is needed to understand whether the results have implications for patients with heart disease or those taking androgen (testosterone) replacement therapy.”