Researchers from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute recently studied the health benefits and risks of using testosterone to treat cardiovascular issues in elderly men. The study was in response to a new FDA mandate requiring manufacturers of approved testosterone treatments to include coronary risks on products. The institute specifically studied men who had pre-existing coronary artery disease and low testosterone levels. 

"The study's importance can't be understated because of how pervasive CVD is in older adults."

The study's importance can't be understated because of how common CVD is around the nation. Around 610,000 people die of heart disease every year, according to the American Heart Association. One person dies from CVD every 40 seconds. That's just over 2,000 people every day. The death rate for men, which this article addresses, is actually 50 percent higher than women but it's still the leading cause of death for both. 

Contents of the study
Researchers divided 755 male patients, between the ages of 58 and 78, into three groups. While Intermountain Healthcare didn't note why this age group was selected, we can take an educated guess: The AHA reported that just a few years ago nearly 35 percent of those who died because of CVD were younger than 75 years old. The average life expectancy for men with CVD is just under 79 years old.

The three groups were divided as follows:

  1. One group received a high dose of testosterone therapy.
  2. The second group received the same treatment but at a medium dosage.
  3. The third group did not receive any testosterone therapy.

At the end of one year, researchers followed up on each patient and found:

  1. Nine out of 755 men who received high dosages of testosterone therapy had major cardiovascular activity.
  2. Twelve men who were given medium dosages had major cardiovascular issues.
  3. Sixty-four patients who were provided testosterone supplements had adverse cardiovascular problems.

At the three-year mark, the researchers again followed up with patients and noticed the results were similar, although the numbers were slightly higher. Most who received a high dose of testosterone did not experience severe heart problems.

Cardiologist Dr. Brent Muhlestein, co-director of cardiovascular research at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, also noted the study is significant because testosterone treatments didn't adversely affect them.

"The study shows that using testosterone replacement therapy to increase testosterone to normal levels in androgen-deficient men doesn't increase their risk of a serious heart attack or stroke," said Dr. Muhlestein. "That was the case even in the highest-risk men – those with known pre-existing heart disease."

Takeaways from the study
It's important to note that, while the study holds weight, doctors shouldn't change their existing procedures just yet. To ensure testosterone treatment replacement therapy is a practical option for those with CVD and does not increase the risk of cardiovascular issues in patients, more research is needed. 

"Although this study indicates that hypo-androgenic men with coronary artery disease might actually be protected by testosterone replacement, this is an observational study that doesn't provide enough evidence to justify changing treatment recommendations," Dr. Muhlestein said. "It does, however, substantiate the need for a randomized clinical trial that can confirm or refute the results of this study."

Dr. Muhlestein did point out this study, along with others, will hopefully result in the FDA allowing manufacturers of testosterone products to remove the required warning label.