Men with a history of heart disease should be careful while taking testosterone therapy as it increases the risk of heart attacks in them, says a new study.
For men over 65 years, the testosterone therapy doubled the risk of heart attack, while the risk increases three times in younger men.
Men are advised by doctors to take testosterone to treat hypogonadism, which causes abnormally low testosterone levels. Testosterone helps improve sexual function, bone density, lean muscle mass and strength. It also decreases cholesterol and insulin resistance. And this in turn ups the chance of diabetes.
According to the study published in PLOS One, the risk doubled during the first three months after starting the therapy.The study is authored by a team from the National Cancer Institute; Los Angeles-based Consolidated Research Inc., which develops statistical methods and software; and UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health.
The study is based on the records of 55,593 men who were put on testosterone from 2006 to 2010. The research further compared their condition prior to the therapy and after the therapy.
But number of men using testosterone therapy has increased over the years. This number has gone up thrice from 2001 to 2011. But only about half of men taking testosterone therapy had hypogonadism problem and 25 per cent did not even get the hormone level checked, says JAMA Internal Medicine study. The rest of patients had been diagnosed with other problems. So the therapy is not always used for the right purpose.
Year 2011 saw over 5.3 million prescriptions for testosterone therapy, five times as many as in 2000, says a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
However, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Practice in 2013, men who were put on long-term testosterone therapy exhibited better cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
Not agreeing with the new study, Abraham Morgentaler, an associate clinical professor of urology at Harvard Medical School, says that some other medical problem and not testosterone may be responsible for men's heart attacks in this study.
Nissen, chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, says hormones not only affects sexual organs, but also other body organs. Recommending testosterone therapy to men who may not really need it, he says, is "a "gigantic experiment, and I'm extremely concerned."