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Testosterone doubles heart attack risk in some men

Teresa Tanoos's picture
New study confirms testosterone treatment boosts risk of heart attack in men.

Low-T? By now, you’ve likely seen the plethora of ads promoting testosterone therapy for men to boost sex drive – and while it may help in the bedroom, it may also send you to the emergency room, according to a new study confirming the male hormone may double the risk of heart attack in some men.

Previous research studies have demonstrated that men with heart disease doubled their risk of heart attack shortly after they began taking testosterone supplements. This new study confirmed those findings, including that men 65 and older also double their heart attack risk, regardless of whether they have had heart disease or not.

Study leader Sander Greenland, a professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, says that patients and physicians need to talk about these risks before starting any testosterone treatment.

Like women who underwent synthetic hormone replacement therapy for menopause in years past because it was thought to lower the risk of cancer and other diseases, only for it to end up increasing the risk, physicians previously believed testosterone therapy for men guarded against such diseases, including heart attacks, only to learn later that it has the opposite effect.

In this newest study, published Wednesday in the journal PLoS ONE, the findings confirmed that of numerous other smaller studies conducted earlier, including a study from last November showing that testosterone therapy not only raised the risk of heart attack in men, but it also significantly increased the risk of stroke and death in men who had already suffered from heart disease and low testosterone levels.

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Another study released last December revealed that men with increased levels of testosterone were also more likely to have a weak response to an influenza vaccine, or no response whatsoever; thus, meaning they had weakened immune systems.

Meanwhile, low-T commercials are increasingly targeting older men whose testosterone levels are starting to diminish due to age. Yet, older men are the very ones who are most at risk for heart attack when taking the male hormone, as the study confirmed such risk doubled for men over 65 even if they never had heart disease before.

For the study, experts at the National Cancer Institute and Consolidated Research reviewed records of over 55,000 males, finding that rates of heart attack more than doubled in men over 65 within 90 days of starting testosterone therapy. In men 75 and older, the rate more than tripled.

To verify these results, the researchers conducted comparison tests to make sure the results were consistent. For example, they compared the men taking testosterone with those who took other erectile dysfunction drugs, such as Viagra and Cialis, which had only a slight risk of causing heart attack even though such drugs work similarly to testosterone when it comes to boosting sex drive.

The research team concluded that the comparison tests provided evidence to support a link between testosterone therapy and greater risk of severe heart-related events in men, including heart attack.

SOURCE: PLoS ONE, Increased Risk of Non-Fatal Myocardial Infarction Following Testosterone Therapy Prescription in Men, published January 29, 2014 (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0085805)



Ms. Tanoos, Have you actually read the report about the VA study? If so, did you do the math? Their conclusions are not supported by the data they published. You ask, how can that be? That's a very good question and one that needs to be answered not only by the authors, but JAMA editors as well. This is the type study that is counter productive in regard to those of us who are sincerely attempting to keep our patients as healthy as possible. Furthermore, it is a disservice to the patients themselves who are the ones who will ultimately suffer if this type pseudoscience is accepted as fact. Please read the study, do the math and get back to me. Once you have done that, you may consider correcting what you have written. I will look forward to your reply. Thank you
This wasn't a JAMA published study though. If you are Dr. Knotts who promotes hormone therapy, then of course, you might naturally look for 'holes' in studies. I was wondering (and don't mean to usurp your question to Teresa) if you had contacted any study authors since that would be 'peer to peer'. If so, I would love to read about the response you get - perhaps on your blog or here. thank you Dr. Knott. Oh, and I might add, they are just suggesting a link. How could that be a disservice to at least alert men toi this possibility?