Testosterone therapy is commonly prescribed to help regulate hormone levels in older men. Although over 5.3 million prescriptions were written in 2011, no one knows the long-term risks of testosterone therapy, and there is increasing evidence linking testosterone and heart attack.
What is the problem?
Testosterone is a hormone that regulates heart function and plays a role in male sexual function, energy levels, bone health, muscle mass, and more. Most men experience a natural decline in testosterone (1-2% per year) after age 40. In recent years, drug-makers have aggressively branded the natural aspects of aging as “Low T,” and promoted supplements.
The problem is that a number of studies have shown that testosterone therapy significantly increases the risk of blood clots, pulmonary embolism, heart attack, stroke, and other life-threatening side effects that significantly outweigh the benefits of treating flagging libidos and sagging muscles.
FDA Requires Warnings About Testosterone Heart Attack Risk
March 3, 2015 — In a Safety Communication, the FDA has required warning about the possible increased risk of heart attacks on the label for all testosterone replacement products. The FDA cautions that testosterone is not approved or recommended for the treatment of “Low T” associated with aging. They are also requiring new clinical trials to assess the risk of heart attacks from testosterone therapy. Click here to read more.
Patients using testosterone should seek medical attention immediately if symptoms of a heart attack or stroke are present, such as:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Weakness in one part or one side of the body
- Slurred speech
Does Testosterone Cause Heart Attacks?
Testosterone makes many physiological changes that increase the risk of blood clots and heart attack. It elevates blood pressure, increases the number of red blood cells, thickens the blood, increases free-circulating estrogens (a known risk-factor for cardiovascular disease), and reduces the amount of HLD cholesterol (“good” cholesterol).
Studies of Testosterone Heart Attack Risk
Men who take testosterone supplements, injections, or gels (such as AndroGel) could double or even triple their risk of a heart attack within 90 days, according to a study published in PLoS One in January 2014.
Testosterone therapy was also linked to a 30% increased risk of heart attack in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers estimated that at least 25% of men on testosterone therapy would have a cardiovascular event within three years.
These findings are supported by a study of testosterone vs. placebo published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009, which had to be halted after the testosterone group had twice as many adverse events, including a significantly higher number of heart attacks.
What is a Heart Attack?
Heart attack, also known as a “myocardial infarction,” occurs when the blood vessels that supply oxygenated blood to the heart muscle (coronary arteries) are obstructed, usually by a blood clot or fatty plaque deposit. This starves the heart muscle of oxygen and causes tissues to die.
The severity of a heart attack depends on how much tissue was destroyed. Even if part of the heart is damaged, the rest will continue to pump blood. However, a damaged heart is weaker and may fail to supply the body with enough blood.
Testosterone heart attack symptoms:
- Blood clots
- Chest pain that spreads to neck, arms, back, abdomen
- Chest discomfort or “crushing” feeling
- Nausea, vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- General feeling of anxiety, sickness
- Skin is clammy and sweaty