As the population ages, all kinds of new trends arise for anti-aging: creams, diets, pills and other lifestyle regimens market heavily to baby boomers looking to slow the aging process. They like to show how an aging population can hold on to their youth that they might feel slipping away. For previous generations, anti-aging techniques were primarily focused on the exterior. Hair dye, makeup, and clothing made older generations feel hip and younger. Plastic surgery and Botox could make people appear younger. Nowadays, however, the focus has changed.
If you’re a man, you’ve seen and heard the ads about low testosterone, or low-T. They say if you’re feeling fatigued and don’t have the energy, strength, lust and enthusiasm of your youth, it’s because your testosterone levels are getting too low. They make it sound like therapy is the only way to bring back the feelings that might seem long gone.
It’s true that older men experience drops in testosterone; it’s a fact of life. And to many, testosterone therapy is a great way to boost testosterone levels and feel better. But it must be closely monitored and carefully administered. The only way to properly establish if testosterone therapy (TT) is your best option is to meet with a doctor and do a full blood scan. It can show all your hormone levels and what, if anything, you might need. You may even find that lowered testosterone is not the reason you’re feeling sluggish or “old.”
There’s a new study that’s got a lot of people talking. It says TT can substantially increase heart attack risk. The results show men over age 65 experienced a two-fold increase for heart attack risk within 90 days of their initial TT prescription, even if they had no prior cardiovascular troubles. At first glance, this might seem quite alarming, and it is.
However, there are a number of doctors speaking out against the way the research was conducted. First of all, it was not a randomized controlled trial, which is ultimately the gold standard for a scientific study. It also failed to look at other diagnostic indicators that could have impacted the results. The group who conducted the study didn’t look at baseline hormone level, which is very important, while overlooking other potential risk factors that could have contributed to the increased heart attack risk.
There are a number of hormones and blood levels that need to be measured to determine if TT is a good idea. These levels will play a significant role in how a patient responds to treatment. At the end of the day, critics point to a number of unmeasured variables and conflicting studies to dispute the accuracy of this claim.
Even though this new study put a scare into older men considering TT, the truth is that the increased cancer risk came in very low, if you look at the hard number. Deaths went from five per 1,000 to 10 per 1,000, meaning the percentage of affected men is still very low.
If you’re thinking about testosterone therapy, move with caution. Talk to your doctor about options, how to best administer it, and be sure to have a full blood evaluation first. The more you know about the big picture, the more likely you’ll respond in a safe and positive manner.
Mollica, M., “Comment on Study: Increased Risk of Heart Attack Following Testoserone Therapy,” Brinkzone web site, February 1, 2014; http://www.brinkzone.com/mens-health/comment-on-study-increased-risk-of-heart-attack-following-testosterone-therapy/, last accessed February 3, 2014.
Knox, R., “Popular Testosterone Therapy May Raise Risk of Heart Attack,” NPR web site, January 30, 2014; http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/01/29/268427675/popular-testosterone-therapy-may-raise-risk-of-heart-attack?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=share&utm_campaign, last accessed February 3, 2014.