Low Testosterone and Your Health
Testosterone and Heart Disease
Testosterone has mixed effects on the arteries. Many experts believe testosterone contributes to the higher rates of heart disease and high blood pressure that tend to affect men at younger ages. By this reasoning, high testosterone might be bad for the heart.
But testosterone deficiency is connected to insulin resistance, obesity, and diabetes. Each of these problems increases cardiovascular risk. Men with diabetes and low testosterone also have higher rates of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
A certain amount of testosterone may be necessary for healthy arteries because it's converted into estrogen, which protects arteries from damage. As yet, no studies show that testosterone replacement protects the heart or prevents heart attacks.
Testosterone and Other Conditions
Low testosterone often exists with other medical conditions:
Depression: In a study of almost 4,000 men older than 70, those with the lowest testosterone levels were more than twice as likely to be depressed. This link remained even after allowing for age, general health, obesity, and other variables.
Erectile dysfunction (ED): Problems with erections are one of the most common symptoms of low testosterone. Most ED is caused by atherosclerosis. Men with risk factors for atherosclerosis -- diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or obesity -- often have low testosterone, too.
High blood pressure: The effects of testosterone on blood pressure are many and complex. Men with high blood pressure may be almost twice as likely to have low testosterone as men with normal blood pressure. On the other hand, too much testosterone can increase blood pressure. Testosterone acts in multiple ways on blood vessels, so this may account for the varying effects.
Testosterone Replacement Treatment Options
The question that remains is, does low testosterone cause or worsen medical problems like diabetes? Or are people who develop diabetes, or other health problems, simply more likely to also have low testosterone?
Studies to answer these questions are under way, but it will be years before we know the results. In the meantime, remember that testosterone replacement hasn't been conclusively shown to improve any health condition other than testosterone deficiency and its symptoms. For men with low testosterone levels as measured by a blood test who also have symptoms of low testosterone, the decision to take testosterone replacement is one to make with your doctor.