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Hormone Replacement for Men: Pros, Cons

Testosterone Replacement May Lower Risk of Heart Disease, Diabetes, Death, but Long-Term Effects Unclear
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 18, 2008 -- Testosterone replacement therapy can help older men deficient in the hormone reduce their risks of heart disease, diabetes, and death, according to new research presented this week at ENDO 08, the annual meeting of The Endocrine Society.

''The goal of testosterone treatment is to keep the levels within normal range," says Farid Saad, director of scientific affairs for Bayer Schering Pharma in Berlin. Saad presented two of the studies at the meeting, held in San Francisco. Bayer Schering Pharma makes several testosterone products.

Low levels of testosterone are common with age, Saad says, occurring in about 18% of 70-year-olds. Low levels of testosterone, he says, are associated with the metabolic syndrome -- a cluster of risk factors such as abnormal cholesterol and high blood pressure that boost risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes as well as other risks to health.

In the studies, Saad and his colleagues found that testosterone replacement therapy reduced the metabolic syndrome risk factors and did so in a similar way in all the age ranges studied.

Testosterone Replacement Therapy and Heart Disease Risks

In the first study, Saad's team looked at 95 men, aged 34 to 69, with low levels of testosterone.

All had metabolic syndrome. Those who have this diagnosis must have three of five risk factors: increased waist circumference, low "good" cholesterol or HDL, high triglycerides, elevated blood pressure, and elevated blood sugar.

"We treated them for at least a year," he tells WebMD. Every three months, they measured cholesterol, waist circumference, and other parameters.

The testosterone replacement was given as a long-acting injection, every three months. The same product is not yet available in the U.S., Saad says, although other types are.

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