Testosterone drugs and heart risk are linked according to a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study found that testosterone replacement drugs increased a man's odds of having a heart attack, stroke or dying by 29 percent.
In particular, testosterone drugs were linked to atherosclerosis and coronary plaque, and found to worsen sleep apnea – a sleep disorder characterized by shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep, Bloomberg News reported
Considering the study's findings, Anne Cappola, an associate editor for the Journal of the American Medical Association, advised men to discuss their concerns with their physician and be cautious when considering taking testosterone replacement drugs.
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Some "think it’s the fountain of youth," Cappola told Bloomberg News in a telephone interview. "It’s going to give them back sexual performance, strength and endurance. The direct marketing of testosterone is playing into that. There needs to be that other voice saying there’s no medication out there with all benefit and no risk. There’s always a trade-off."
The study was aimed at older men, considering that most who take testosterone replacement drugs are near or approaching the twilight of their life.
Researchers based their findings on 8,709 men treated in the U.S. Veterans Affairs health system, who on average were 60 years or older and many had preexisting health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and blocked heart arteries, the New York Daily News reported
Being that the study was based on older individuals largely with preexisting conditions, it is unclear what if any affects the drugs would have on healthier, younger men researchers admitted.
"It does kind of raise the question of, maybe when patients and their physicians are thinking about starting testosterone therapy, potential risks such as the ones we looked at should be in that discussion," Dr. P. Michael Ho told the New York Daily News.
Ho worked on the study at Denver's VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System.
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The testosterone replacement drug industry is a $1.6 billion market and growing.
According to the study's authors, testosterone supplement prescriptions have risen five-fold between 2000 and 2011, with more than 5.3 million men using such drugs as of 2011.
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