In the past decade, sales of testosterone gels, patches, pellets, and injections have skyrocketed. Testosterone is prescribed to many men who suffer from “low T,” which involves fatigue, low libido, and loss of energy.
You or someone you know might be taking testosterone, and if so, you should know the risks and benefits.
According to an article in the New York Times, a recent study has found that prescription testosterone raised the risk of heart attacks for older and middle-aged men.
The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, tracked around 56,000 men around the country who were taking prescription testosterone between 2008 and 2010. The study compared the rate of heart attacks in the years before and after they starting taking the hormone.
For men 65 and older, the rate of heart attacks doubled in the months following. The same happened for men younger than 65 who had been previously diagnosed with heart disease.
Why is this occurring? It doesn’t seem to be because men taking testosterone are engaging in more strenuous activity: the study compared the men with another group of 17,000 men taking Viagra and Cialis; the second group didn’t experience an increase in heart attacks.
Instead, it might be because testosterone increases the body’s production of red blood cells, which can clump together and make the blood thicker. For men who have narrowed arteries due to age or heart disease, this can be deadly.
It’s important to note that, if you are taking testosterone, you shouldn’t stop taking your prescription without first talking to your doctor.
Dr. Peter Snyder, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, warned against drawing too many conclusions from this study: “We don’t know if these findings apply to men who have low testosterone and meet the criteria for a prescription, or if it applies only to men who have normal levels and then take the testosterone in addition.”
Alarmingly, some studies have shown the almost one-fourth of men taking testosterone weren’t tested for hypogonadism. Testosterone therapy is approved only for treating this endocrine disorder.
The results of this study and similar studies are prompting some health and safety advocates to call for warning labels to be added on the drug.
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