Link between low testosterone and heart disease deaths: Study

Published on October 21, 2010 at 1:05 AM · No Comments

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

In a new study it was seen that men diagnosed with coronary heart disease with low testosterone were almost twice as likely to die over a seven year period. The team led by Prof Kevin Channer a cardiologist of the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield looked at 930 men for the study. This study is in contrast to the popular belief that testosterone increases heart disease risk. The study was published in the journal Online First Heart.

Results from the study showed that one in five of those with low testosterone levels died, compared with one in eight (12 per cent) of those with normal levels. "Borderline" low levels of testosterone also raised the risk of an early death, both from heart disease and other causes. Previous studies have shown that healthy men with low testosterone are more likely to die before those with normal levels. The men had been referred to a specialist heart centre between 2000 and 2002, and were tracked for around the next seven years.

According to Prof Channer no studies have shown that normal, physiological levels of the hormone were harmful. There was a mistaken belief that the hormone was harmful he said. This study is the fourth that showed testosterone's protective properties at normal levels, he added. Prescription of replacement testosterone for men with low levels, who also have type 2 diabetes or heart disease, has risen markedly in recent years he explained. He added that more studies were needed to prove the benefit of replacement therapy with the hormone. “If it can be shown beyond reasonable doubt that mortality is reduced by replacement testosterone to physiological levels, then it should be given to all men with low levels,” he said.

He had requested for funds for the proposed male HRT (hormone replacement therapy) from the Medical Research Council that has been rejected. He informed that pharmaceutical companies were also not willing to fund for the study since female HRT has been linked to cancer.

According to Ellen Mason, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, replacing testosterone could reduce the furring of arteries. But she added a warning saying, “Although this research highlights a significant link between heart disease and testosterone deficiency, it is not clear if low testosterone is behind poorer survival in men with low levels of the hormone.”

In an accompanying editorial Dr Ronald Ma and Dr Peter Tong, from the Chinese University of Hong Kong have written, “There has been a marked increase in prescription of testosterone over recent years. While the long-term cardiovascular impact of testosterone supplements in those with low levels remains to be demonstrated, accumulating evidence suggests there is a sound basis for examining this.”

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