Sensational media stories over the past few months have warned men to think twice about testosterone replacement therapy. They call testosterone dangerous and suggest that replacement puts men at higher risk of heart attack.
Reality check: The two studies that prompted all this have several flaws and inconsistencies. For instance, follow-up blood tests to assess testosterone levels were not consistently done, and the average testosterone level of the men who were tested failed to reach the optimal therapeutic range.
Nor did they test levels of estrogen, which often rise during testosterone treatment and, if not corrected, can have adverse health effects. Furthermore, these two studies contradict everything we know about testosterone replacement.
Benefits of Testosterone Replacement
Most research has found that a low testosterone level is a risk factor for heart disease and that testosterone replacement improves cardiovascular health. It bolsters the heart muscle and improves symptoms in men with angina.
As a therapy for cardiovascular disorders, it shines brightest in the treatment of congestive heart failure. This condition is associated with inflammation and loss of skeletal muscle, and supplemental testosterone addresses both of these concerns. In one study, men with heart failure who used testosterone replacement therapy for 12 months made significant strides in exercise capacity.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy and Prostate Health
I am not suggesting testosterone replacement therapy is completely benign. Testosterone does fuel prostate cancer growth, so you should be screened before starting on this hormone. However, even though supplemental testosterone may raise PSA levels, it has been definitely proven that the treatment does not cause prostate cancer.
UCLA researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that older men on a placebo actually had more prostate cancer than those treated with supplemental testosterone. Still, I recommend that men with active prostate cancer avoid testosterone replacement and men who are using this therapy should take 360 mg of saw palmetto daily to support their prostates.
When you read about the other dangers of testosterone replacement therapy, including shrinkage of the testicles, shutdown of sperm production, liver damage, and “roid rage” (aggression), they are referring to very high, abusive doses. Truth is, when properly administered, testosterone therapy is exceptionally safe. The goal isn’t to have sky-high levels of testosterone, it’s to restore depleted levels to that of a healthy adult male.
Is Testosterone Replacement Therapy Right for You?
One in four American men over age 30 has a low testosterone level, which is defined as less than 300 ng/dL total testosterone and less than 5 ng/dL free testosterone. And these low levels have a decidedly negative effect on men’s health.
Low levels of testosterone increase the risk of bone loss and muscle atrophy. They are clearly associated with diabetes (men with the lowest levels have more than double the risk of diabetes) and heart disease (levels are significantly lower in affected men).
Moodiness, memory problems, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, loss of confidence, and diminished libido are all symptoms of testosterone deficiency. Testosterone is even linked to longevity. According to a landmark study of male veterans, men with low testosterone levels had a 68 percent increased risk of death compared to those with normal levels.
Once men start using supplemental testosterone, either in the form of topical creams and gels or regular injections, magical things often begin to happen. Sexual interest and performance perk up. Muscle mass, most noticeably in the shoulders and chest, makes a comeback. Men feel less grumpy and depressed, and more energetic and motivated.
Testosterone replacement therapy requires a prescription, and may be administered in several forms. At the Whitaker Wellness Institute, we primarily use daily applications of testosterone creams or gels. (Note: I do not recommend using oral testosterone as it may harm the liver.) To find a doctor in your area well versed in testosterone therapy, visit the American Academy of Anti-Aging’s website. To make an appointment at Whitaker Wellness call (800) 488-1500.
Now it’s your turn: Are you a good candidate for testosterone replacement therapy?