For some older men, testosterone treatments could raise risk

Recommended by Dr. Michael White, Updated on May 4th, 2015
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CHICAGO In older men with low hormone levels and other health problems, testosterone treatments might increase risks for heart attacks, strokes and death, a large Veterans Affairs study suggests.

Testosterone gels, patches and injections are heavily marketed for low sex drive, fatigue and purported anti-aging benefits, and the study authors and other doctors said the research should prompt discussions between doctors and patients.

In the study, hormone users and nonusers were in their early 60s on average, and most had other health problems, including high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels and diabetes. Men who used testosterone were 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack or stroke or to die during a three-year period than men with low hormone levels who didnt take the supplements.

The research does not prove that testosterone caused the heart attacks, strokes or death. But it echoes a previous study in older men and should encourage doctors and patients to discuss potential risks and benefits of using the products, said study lead author Michael Ho, a cardiologist with the VAs Eastern Colorado Health System in Denver.

The nationwide study involved an analysis of health data on 8,700 veterans with low levels of testosterone, the main male sex hormone. All had undergone a heart imaging test, and many had risk factors for heart problems, including blocked heart arteries. Risks linked with testosterone were similar in men with and without existing heart problems.

It is unclear how the hormone might increase heart risks, but possibilities include evidence that testosterone might make blood substances called platelets stick together, which could lead to blood clots, the study authors said.

Previous studies on the supplements health effects have had mixed results.

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For some older men, testosterone treatments could raise risk

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