January 29, 2014 — The journal PLoS One has published a study linking the use of testosterone therapy in men over 65 to a doubled increased risk of heart attack and stroke. In men under 65 with pre-existing heart disease, testosterone therapy tripled the risk of cardiovascular events.
Researchers warned that the increased risk is equivalent to having extremely high cholesterol or smoking two to three packs of cigarettes per day.
The study confirms previous research linking testosterone therapy and heart attacks. In November 2013, Journal of the American Medical Association published a study in which the rate of cardiovascular events was 25.7% of patients on testosterone therapy versus 19.9% of the non-treated patients.
Another study, published in 2010 in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that there were twice as many adverse events in men on testosterone therapy versus men on a placebo. In addition, cardiovascular events occurred in 22% of men on testosterone, versus 5% of men on a placebo.
Despite these studies, prescriptions for testosterone therapy are at an all-time high. Prescriptions have increased five-fold to 5.3 million from 2000 to 2011. The hormones are administered through gels, patches, and injections.
One reason for the popularity of testosterone therapy is aggressive advertising urging men to seek treatment for symptoms of “low T,” including low energy, sagging muscles, decreased libido, mood changes, and more. While these products are used by nearly 4% of men in their 60s, only about half of men actually have hypogonadism, and nearly 25% of patients never had their testosterone levels checked.