In 2012 testosterone hormone replacement therapy sales exceeded $2 billion dollars, yes, with a “b”. The popularization of "Low Testosterone", or the more marketable and stylish term "Low T" as a undesirable diseased state, testosterone prescription sales to older men has become a pharmaceutical gold mine; and that’s saying something in that industry.
With promises of improving the supposed common symptoms associated with Low T, including low libido, fatigue, weight gain, and cognitive decline, it’s no wonder most men are hopeful. Testosterone treatment may sound like the fountain of youth, but is it really more fantasy than fact? Here is what the current research has to say about testosterone therapy for older men.
Cardiovascular Disease Prevention
Published studies regarding the protective effects of testosterone therapy for cardiovascular disease are inconsistent and unconvincing. Some show positive improvements, while others show no effect or even negative consequences. One study was even stopped early due to its associated negative cardiovascular effects. Furthermore, testosterone therapy has shown no consistent effect on inflammatory markers or lipids which are considered risk factors for cardiovascular events. When it comes to heart health, it does not seem as though testosterone therapy is the right answer, and may even do more harm than good; at least in healthy older men.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there does not appear to be any consistent demonstrated effectiveness for testosterone and improving sexual function or satisfaction, (sigh). Additionally, testosterone is not effective for erectile dysfunction (ED), and ED should not be confused with low libido or sex drive*. Some studies have shown positive effects on libido, though the results are mixed. There are many factors that can contribute to sexual function and libido and although testosterone levels may play a minor role, it does not seem to be consistent enough to prescribe testosterone
based on these findings alone.
*Note: ED should be distinguished from low libido. ED is the inability to attain or maintain an erection, and may be an indicator of more serious disease. Always talk to your doctor about any erectile issues and get the appropriate screening for cardiovascular disease.
Muscle Mass & Strength
Testosterone therapy seems to have a positive effect on muscle mass (duh..), and decreasing fat mass in males. However, it does not seem to improve muscular strength, or improve physical function in older men. Therefore, improving muscle mass without improving physical function may play less of a protective role against injury for healthy aging men.
Mood & Cognition
Most studies show no benefit of testosterone therapy for treatment of psychological well-being or mood, though some showed positive outcomes on anxiety. Notably, some studies reported an increase in hostility, aggression and anger (aka “Roid Rage”). Furthermore, testosterone has not proved itself beneficial for cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, or memory.
Due to the conflicting and possibly negative outcomes of testosterone therapy, it seems as though the harms may outweigh its benefits in healthy older men. Although testosterone therapy seems to have been promising more than its delivered, this does not mean that if you are suffering from any of the above symptoms that you should fail to seek assessment or treatment. The same symptoms associated with Low T can be due to a variety of other states and conditions including; chronic illness or stress, lack of exercise, poor sleep, increase alcohol consumption, pharmaceuticals, or conditions such as insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity. Getting proper evaluation of your symptoms supported with lab tests can help distinguish true low testosterone from other age-related processes. Finding the true underlying causes of your concerns can provide helpful insights into the most effective and appropriate therapies.
Now, please don’t think I am just here to explain the downsides of testosterone therapy and then leave you lost. There are plenty of other options and natural therapies available, but, for the sake of your time and attention span, assuming I haven’t lost you yet. I will introduce you to the many easy and natural ways for you to increase testosterone in a later post. Want to know when it is coming out and stay up to date? Check out Motivational Monday's by signing up HERE.
Despite testosterones popular use, its clinical evaluation and evidence for older men is inconclusive or unsupportive of many of its claims
Popular advertising and marketing promises for testosterone prescriptions may prove more of a fantasy than a fact.
Getting evaluation for true low testosterone can be important in determining of your health, and you should always consult your doctor.
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