“Low T, as it’s now referred to, has become fashionable and an apparently easy fix for men who are looking to feel better physically and emotionally,” said Colin Barker, M.D., a cardiologist with Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center. “Many use the topical cream and see the benefits, but don’t think about the potential risks.”
Testosterone is a hormone that is responsible for developing a man’s reproductive tissue as well as increasing his bone mass and growth of body hair. It also gives a male his sexual drive. Men with high levels of testosterone range between 1,000 and 1,200 nanograms, while those with low levels are around 300 nanograms.
A 2013 published study conducted by the Veterans Affairs (VA) Administration studied more than 200,000 men who with Low T. The study found that more than 55,000 men given testosterone replacement therapy were at a 36 percent higher risk of heart attack 90 days after receiving the treatment than those who received Viagra or Cialis. Men of over age 65 were at a 90 percent higher risk of heart attack. The finding was not something researchers had anticipated.
“When you dig deeper into these types of treatments you sometimes find surprises that might do more harm than good to the patient in the long run,” Barker said. “The risk of heart attack, not to mention increased risk of prostate cancer and abnormal high blood cell count that can cause blood clots, should make men think before blindly jumping into this type of therapy.”
These findings parallel the 2009 Women’s Health Initiative study that looked at giving postmenopausal women estrogen and Progestin to reduce the incidences of heart disease, breast and colorectal cancer and fractures. Coronary heart disease events increased by 29 percent in women who were given estrogen and Progestin compared with those were not.
“The normal aging process causes most of us to feel a little more sluggish and lose our sex drive when we get older,” Barker said. “I think men who truly need testosterone therapy should get it, but be closely monitored. Those with normal levels of testosterone should try to get more sleep and makes changes in their diet and exercise regimens and stay away from this therapy.”