Testosterone is an important hormone –especially so for men. It is heavily involved in sexual function, energy production, and helps to slow down the aging process. If testosterone remained at the same level throughout a man’s life, many of the common health complaints now experienced by older men would vanish.
Unfortunately, testosterone levels do tend to slowly but steadily drop in mid-life. Low levels of the hormone have been blamed for sexual dysfunction, bouts of unexplained fatigue, and rapid aging. For this reason, many men turn to testosterone treatments to boost their levels of this important hormone.
While testosterone therapy may help you deal with some of those unpleasant symptoms, they can actually be dangerous too, reports a new study. Researchers have discovered that certain men who take the hormone therapy are at increased risk for heart attack, stroke, and death. Many of these men were already experiencing low levels of other hormones too, as well as suffering from other health problems.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at the health of 8,700 veterans with low levels of testosterone. All were in their early 60s. The participants were given a heart imaging test that revealed many suffered from heart problems, including atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
The research team found that men who used testosterone therapy were 30% more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or die during a three-year period than their counterparts with low hormone levels who didn’t take the supplements.
The researchers aren’t saying that testosterone therapy is directly responsible for causing the heart attacks, strokes and premature deaths of the study participants. However, clearly some risks are involved in taking the therapy and these risks should be discussed with a knowledgeable doctor or specialist. The study certainly raises some concerns about the testosterone gels, patches, or injections that many men take to treat a low sex drive.
This doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to be done if you’re suffering the effects of low testosterone levels. To help replace the testosterone that’s being lost in the natural course of growing older, follow these five testosterone-boosting tips:
- Lose that extra body fat. Body fat can trigger an elevation in estrogen levels. High estrogen levels can cause a drop in testosterone levels. The two hormones are linked, and you need to lower one to benefit from the other.
- Make sure you get adequate zinc. Zinc contains an enzyme that prevents testosterone from turning into estrogen.
- Drink only in moderation. Alcohol prevents the removal of estrogen from the bloodstream. As estrogen builds, testosterone decreases.
- Eat foods high in hydrolysates. Hydrolysates are high in two compounds—tripeptides and dipepties—that help to build muscle and lower fat levels in the body. More muscle and less fat equals higher levels of testosterone. Whey protein and eggs are both high in hydrolysates.
Tanner, L., “Testosterone products linked with heart risks, strokes in older men: study,” CTV News web site, Nov. 6, 2013; http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/testosterone-products-linked-with-heart-risks-strokes-in-older-men-study-1.1530207, last accessed Nov. 13, 2013.
Fisch, H., “The Truth About Testosterone,” The Dr. Oz Show web site, Oct. 10, 2011; http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/truth-about-testosterone?page=3, last accessed Nov. 13, 2013.