A new headline-making study warning of dire side effects from testosterone medications is misleading and has been overhyped, says a top hormone therapy expert.
“I’m concerned that men will stop taking testosterone because of this new study,” Erika Schwartz, M.D., told Newsmax Health. “It contradicts all the previous research that shows the benefits of this form of therapy. When taken properly, the results of testosterone therapy can be amazing.”
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The new research suggests that men who take testosterone after undergoing a minor cardiac procedure are more likely to suffer strokes, heart attacks, or die. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The findings directly contradict a similar study done last year, which found that similarly aged men who took testosterone had a 50 percent less risk of dying, noted Dr. Schwartz, a leading national expert who has hosted a PBS special on hormone therapies.
The major difference between the two studies was the condition of the subjects. Most of the men in the new study had serious health problems, including a prior history of heart attack, congestive heart failure, or confirmed coronary heart disease. Men in the previous study were healthier.
“All this study showed was that older men with heart disease, who are sick, are not likely to benefit from starting testosterone therapy. It says nothing about the relatively healthy men who have benefited from testosterone therapy and use it for prevention,” said Dr. Schwartz. “My patients, if they start testosterone early enough, they benefit tremendously.”
Men taking testosterone medications often say it gives them more energy, muscle tone, libido, and lifts depression.
Dr. Schwartz says she does have concerns about high demand for testosterone caused by TV commercials warning against “low T.”
In the rush to get the hormone, men may not take care to ensure that the medication is being administered to them correctly. For example, high-dose testosterone injections can lead to side effects caused by hormonal levels to peaking and falling, instead of remaining at a consistent level. Choosing the right doctor is the key to getting good results from the hormone, she says.
Dr. Schwartz offers this advice to men considering testosterone therapy:
- Choose a doctor who is experienced and has treated hundreds of patients over a period of years instead of someone who just started administering testosterone therapy.
- Beware of twice-monthly testosterone injections. Look for a doctor who uses testosterone cream, gels, or frequent low-dose injections, which keep hormone levels more constant without wild fluctuations.
- To get the best preventive benefits, begin testosterone therapy when you’re younger, instead of waiting until the 70s or later.
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