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"Anytime a physician prescribes a medication, there are going to be some risks associated with that medication," says William Young, Jr., M.D., the chair of Mayo Clinic's Division of Endocrinology.
Dr. Young says advertising for testosterone medications to treat so-called low T, particularly during televised sporting events, is prompting men to seek out prescriptions for a medication most of them don't need. "So successful has the marketing for this testosterone therapy been that, according to Drugs.com, an independent medicine website, sales of the testosterone gel Androgel in 2013 exceeded sales of Viagra," according to a statement from the UCLA newsroom regarding a new study of the cardiovascular risks of testosterone therapy.
Journalists: Sound bites with Dr. Young are available in the downloads.
The joint study by UCLA, the National Institutes of Health and Consolidated Research Inc., found the risk of a heart attack shortly after beginning testosterone therapy roughly doubled for men under 65 with a history of heart disease. The study, in the Jan. 29 online edition of the journal PLOS ONE, is the largest to date examining heart disease in men using testosterone supplements.
"In terms of truly low testosterone, it’s actually a very small fraction of the male population in the Unites States that’s truly affected by this. One of the problems of making this distinction is that testosterone levels fall with age." TRT :14
Dr. Young says, although only a small percentage of men may actually need testosterone medication, there are some symptoms which signal that it might be worth having a conversation with your doctor.
/// SOT - Symptoms of Possible Low T (Dr. William Young Jr., Mayo Clinic Endocrinologist)
"I think men who have a definite change in their sex drive, libido, men who need to shave less frequently, are losing muscle mass, body hair, are noticing their testicles are getting smaller or if they’re noticing the enlargement of their breasts, these are signs and symptoms that they should talk about the possibility of low testosterone with their physician." TRT :24
On the other hand, Dr. Young says, boosting testosterone levels unnecessarily may raise a man's risk of other health problems besides heart attacks.
/// SOT - Health Risks of High Testosterone (Dr. William Young Jr., Mayo Clinic Endocrinologist)
"If the levels are too high, that triggers the bone marrow to make more red blood cells, which makes the blood more thick and can predispose to stroke. High testosterone levels can also promote the growth of the prostate gland." TRT :15
Dr. Young says patients suspected of having low male hormone levels may be put on a temporary treatment trial of testosterone medication to see if it brings improvement. However, he says, it’s common to discover that patients with complaints of severe fatigue do not get the desired boost in their energy levels with testosterone therapy, because low testosterone was not the cause of their fatigue.