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Low hormones may jeopardise men

Wednesday October 20th, 2010

Low hormone levels could be linked to a heightened risk of men facing early death from heart disease, British researchers report today.

A study, published online in Heart, challenges the previously-held belief that the hormone testosterone is a risk factor for heart disease.

But experts say the findings do not prove that the hormone protects against heart disease - merely that there is a link with low levels.

Ellen Mason, of the British Heart Foundation, said: "Research involving animals has shown that replacing testosterone can reduce the furring of arteries, so now we need to look more closely at the effect on men. Low levels of the hormone are more common in older men, so studying different age groups will be important.

"There must also be research into the risks as well as the benefits of hormone replacement therapy for men and future studies into testosterone replacement need to look at men with heart disease, and those without."

The researchers, led by Professor Kevin Channer, of the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, UK, based their conclusions on 930 men, all of whom had coronary artery heart disease, and had been referred to a specialist heart centre between 2000 and 2002.

When the men were referred, one in four of the men was classified as having low testosterone, or hypogonadism, as opposed to a tailing off in levels of the hormone as a result of ageing.

During the seven-year monitoring period 41 – or one in five - men with low testosterone died compared with one in eight with normal levels.

The only factors that influenced this risk were heart failure (left ventricular dysfunction), treatment with aspirin or a high blood pressure drug, such as beta blocker, and low bio-T levels.

A low bio-T level was an independent risk factor for premature death from all causes and from heart disease, after taking account of other influential factors, such as age, other underlying health problems, smoking and weight. Borderline levels of low total testosterone (15.1mmol/l) also increased the risk of an early death.

The researchers said that men at high risk may benefit from testosterone replacement.

Also writing in the journal, Dr Ronald Ma, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, China, says: "There has been a marked increase in prescription of testosterone over recent years.

"While the long term cardiovascular impact of testosterone supplements in those with low levels remains to be demonstrated, accumulating evidence suggests there is a sound basis for examining this."

He warns there are risks, including prostate cancer. And high testosterone in women boosts the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Low serum testosterone and increased mortality in men with coronary heart disease Heart 2010; doi 10.1136/hrt.2010.195412

Tags: Heart Health | Menís Health | UK News

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