Testosterone Therapy Raises Risk of Heart Attack

testosteroneA new study shows that men who have been diagnosed with heart disease before starting testosterone therapy are more prone to blood clots. Therefore, it raises their risk for heart attacks. The results show that men over 65 have double the risk, while younger men have triple the risk of a heart attack while taking a prescription for low testosterone.

The study was led by William Finkle, owner of Consolidated Research, and a team of researchers from UCLA. They studied a total of 55,593 men who took some form of testosterone. The research, funded by the Intramural Research Program of the National Cancer Institute, stands out because it is such a large-scale study. They looked at the medical history of the men for a year prior to their prescription and for three months while they used testosterone.

They found that a history of heart disease raises the risk of attack in men participating in testosterone therapy. The data shows that 15 out of every 1,000 men in the study fell in this category. The risk didn’t increase for men who weren’t previously diagnosed with heart disease.

Finkle states that their findings are alarming enough to push for the FDA to include a warning label on testosterone prescriptions. Heart attack is not currently listed as a possible side effect for these drugs. Among the products compared in the study were Viagra, Cialis and Axiron.

Testosterone therapy is used to increase red blood cell production. Doing so raises the risk of getting blood clots because the blood thickens, cutting off blood flow to the heart. In turn, it can increase the risk of a heart attack for men who have already been diagnosed with heart disease.

According to a different study that was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine in 2013, prescriptions for testosterone have tripled in men over 40 in the last 10 years.

Testosterone is usually prescribed to treat low bone density and loss of muscle mass, which are often associated with aging. However, men are increasingly using testosterone to increase their sex drive and boost their energy level. The intended use of testosterone therapy is to treat severe deficiency, which is known as hypogonadism. Symptoms include infertility, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, hot flashes, poor concentration and osteoporosis.

“Low T,” as it is often called, has gained attention in recent years. For men, it can be the equivalent of menopause. Midlife presents bothersome, yet often harmless symptoms, including loss of energy and lack of sexual desire. Not wanting to face the stigma associated with a low libido or poor sex drive, men seek an easy solution. Their desperation can lead to the misuse of testosterone therapy. It’s often used as a lifestyle improvement drug, rather than as a medical necessity. Men are also drawn to testosterone prescriptions because of the alluring ads that suggest it acts as a fountain of youth.

The results of Finkle’s study show that men need to discuss alternative therapies for treating Low T if they have a history of heart disease. Testosterone prescriptions need to be limited to men who need it for medical reasons, since it raises the risk for heart attacks, even in men younger than 65. Heart history needs to be discussed with a physician before taking testosterone.

By Tracy Rose

Sources:

Plos One

Forbes

CBS News

NY Times

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