How Are Testosterone and Cholesterol Linked?

Testosterone is an important hormone for men. It helps control growth and development and is linked to sex drive, muscle, and bone mass. Researchers are studying the idea that it's also linked to cholesterol in some way. Some think it might help prevent heart disease, but there's no proof of that yet.

Cholesterol is a kind of fat in your blood. Your body uses it to help your brain, skin, and other organs grow and work right. But if you have too much of it, it can build up on the walls of your blood vessels and make them narrow. That can make it harder for your blood to move through your body and raise your blood pressure.

There are two main types of cholesterol:

Studies have found that testosterone doesn't seem to have any effect on LDL -- "bad" -- cholesterol. But higher testosterone can lead to lower levels of "good" cholesterol in healthy men between the ages of 20 and 50.

Researchers haven't seen that happen in older men who take testosterone supplements, though.

Testosterone and Heart Disease

As men age, their bodies make less testosterone. Older men are also more likely to have heart problems and high cholesterol. Testosterone can help get rid of fat and build muscle mass, both of which can make you less likely to have a heart attack.

So, can boosting the hormone help prevent heart disease?

In 2015, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, who study hormones and how they affect your body, tried to answer that question. They learned that there's a strong link between low testosterone and heart attacks and other heart problems, especially in older men.

But other studies suggest that some men might be more likely to have heart trouble if they take testosterone supplements.

In 2010, researchers cut short a study of testosterone supplements in older men who had problems getting around. Of the 209 men in the study, 23 men who were getting testosterone treatments developed high blood pressure or abnormal heart rhythms or had heart attacks.

Since the trial involved a small number of men who were older and unhealthy in other ways, scientists said they couldn't learn much from the results.

The bottom line is that scientists don't have any real evidence that boosting testosterone affects the risk of heart problems. More studies are needed for doctors to better understand the risks and benefits.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on December 22, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: "About high cholesterol."

American Heart Association: "Good vs. Bad Cholesterol."

Rubinow, K. Clinical Lipidology, September-October 2012.

American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists: "Position Statement on the Association of Testosterone and Cardiovascular Risk," 2015.

Harvard Health Publications: "Testosterone and the Heart."

News release, The Endocrine Society.

News release, U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Basaria, S. New England Journal of Medicine, July 2010.

Cai, Z. Lipids in Health and Disease, March 2015.

Thirumalai, A. Clinical Lipidology, May-June 2016.

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