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Testosterone treatment in men may lower heart disease risk and boost sex drive

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Testosterone treatment may lower cardiovascular risk in men while also boosting sex drive.

A new study shows that testosterone treatment for men may do a lot more than just boost sex drive, as it appears to have other benefits, including a reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

According to researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), replacing testosterone in men with low levels of the hormone also restored normal lipid profiles.

The study, currently published online in the International Journal of Clinical Practice, found that men treated with testosterone also showed improvement in their total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and had an increase in high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, which is the good cholesterol.

Lead author Abdulmaged M. Traish, MBA, PhD added that the study also found men on testosterone treatment had significant reductions in blood pressure (both systolic and diastolic). This indicates an improvement in hypertension, explained Traish, who is a professor of biochemistry and urology and Research Director of the Institute of Sexual Medicine at BUSM.

Testosterone deficiency and metabolic syndrome are closely related, and they are associated with a greater risk of developing both cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Men who have low testosterone levels are therefore at an increased risk of having metabolic syndrome characterized by diabetes, resistance to insulin and high blood pressure, especially if the men are overweight or otherwise obese.

For the study, BUSM researchers investigated the effects of testosterone treatment in 255 testosterone deficient men, aged 33 to 69. The researchers followed the men over a five-year period.

In addition to improving their cholesterol levels and blood pressure on testosterone therapy, these men also showed improvements in fasting blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c (a marker of hyperglycemia), which indicates that testosterone treatment may improve insulin sensitivity and hyperglycemic control.

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The results of this study are consistent with Traish's earlier research, which found that "long-term testosterone resulted in a gradual decline in weight and waist circumference", strongly indicating that testosterone treatment for men with low levels of the hormone could end up helping them lower their risk of developing cardio metabolic diseases.

In the meantime, there are other ways to lower your risk of heart disease without medications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the following tips:

1. Eat a healthy diet. Choosing healthful meal and snack options can help you avoid heart disease and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high blood cholesterol. Limiting salt or sodium in your diet can also lower your blood pressure.

2. Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate a number called the body mass index (BMI). Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure a person's excess body fat.

3. Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends adults engage in moderate-intensity exercise for 2 hours and 30 minutes every week.

4. Don't smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. So, if you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit.

5. Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which causes high blood pressure.

SOURCE: International Journal of Clinical Practice, Long-term testosterone therapy in hypogonadal men ameliorates elements of the metabolic syndrome: an observational, long-term registry study. Article first published online: 15 OCT 2013 DOI: 10.1111/ijcp.12319