High Testosterone May Raise Heart Disease Risk
Study Shows Link Between High Testosterone and Heart Disease in Older Men
Debate on Testosterone and Heart Health continued...
"Experts seem to agree that low testosterone is associated with a higher risk of death from heart disease," she says. But it's difficult to know which came first, she says, as men may first get sick and then testosterone declines.
Still under debate, she says, is whether or not testosterone has a cause-and-effect role in heart health.
Exactly how high testosterone might be linked with coronary heart disease isn't clear, Sueoka says. "In some animal models and in the lab, if you give testosterone it can lead to atherosclerosis," she says. But, she adds, there is also some evidence to the contrary, that it improves blood flow and dilates blood vessels, improving heart health.
The new findings contradict conclusions of previous research, says P.K. Shah, MD, director of cardiology at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, who reviewed the study for WebMD.
He points, for instance, to the large EPIC-Norfolk study from Europe, in which the testosterone-heart disease link was studied in more than 11,000 men. Researchers concluded that low testosterone may be a marker for those at high risk of cardiovascular disease.
''These findings in older men come a bit of a surprise," he tells WebMD. He says the number of participants, under 700, is quite small compared to the European study.
''I think it's fair to say we still don't know a clear-cut answer to the question, 'Does testosterone contribute to or protect from cardiovascular disease?'" Shah says. "I am not fully convinced that this study answers the question of whether high testosterone is protective or detrimental for heart disease."
Until more research is in, he says, "If men have testosterone deficiency, replacing that is probably quite reasonable to preserve muscle mass and improve libido."
More research is needed, agrees Sueoka, who says she can't comment on testosterone supplementation, as her study looked only at natural testosterone levels.
If future studies confirm the link she found between high testosterone and heart disease, she says, ''the second question has to be, 'If you give [supplemental] testosterone, are you causing more heart disease?'"
This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.