Debunking the Myth Between Testosterone and Heart Attacks

Mike CarragherAge Management, Anti-Aging, Carragher Method, Dr. Carragher, Dr. Mike's Tips, Hormone Optimization, Testosterone, UncategorizedLeave a Comment

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Poor testosterone! After an eye-grabbing article linking heart attacks and testosterone therapy together, there has been much fear and hysteria surrounding testosterone and heart attacks and what this means for our patients. Lucky for you, The Carragher Method can help dispel the rumors about testosterone causing heart attacks, and the problems with this study. 

Since making news headlines 8 years ago, patients have asked me about this news report. The report mentioned a study linking testosterone to an increase in heart attacks in men.  On January 29, 2014, the Los Angeles Times headline read, “Testosterone Prescriptions Linked to Heart Attack.” Headlines like this grab your attention (it did mine!) so that you read the paper. 

It has been well-established that testosterone therapy has been linked to decreased fatigue, increased sex drive, and overall stronger muscles and less body fat. Knowing that these things are not only what men want, but it’s also what is healthier for them,  it’s imperative they feel comfortable, confident, and in control when starting a hormone like testosterone.

But the news reports stem from an article published in the journal Plos One. The article was titled “Increased Risk of Non-Fatal Myocardial Infarction Following Testosterone Therapy Prescription in Men.” I knew I needed to look closer at the study. I highlighted three major problems with the article that you’ll want to read about here.

But first, remember that a hormone specialist should be trained in the proper prescribing of testosterone therapy. So, keep reading this article and think about if you think you may benefit from testosterone therapy. Despite this study mentioning testosterone and heart attacks, getting testosterone therapy should be a choice you should feel comfortable making.

Why Do You Need a Hormone Specialist for Testosterone Therapy?

Age Management physicians understand the health benefits that occur when men decide to pursue testosterone therapy. They also take into consideration your health history, symptoms, and other key hormone levels. This allows for the best course of action to improve your hormonal health.

Most traditionally trained physicians, like your GP, only treat pathologically low hormone levels. They do not take into consideration the fact that your health outcomes and disease risk will improve with maintaining youthful hormone levels. Working with a hormone specialist can provide peace of mind and reassurance when you need it most.

  • An Age Management specialist can teach you how your body’s hormones are changing and what you should do to stay healthy
  • An Age Management specialist can monitor your testosterone and other hormone levels and determine what factors are causing changing levels of hormones
  • An Age Management specialist can help you feel reassured about decisions related to testosterone and hormone therapy in general as part of a preventive medicine treatment plan

Age Management specialists can help you feel better about pursuing therapy when you’re anxious. Rather than dwelling on the early side effects, you can get help from The Carragher Method by putting together a self-care plan to stay well while your body’s hormones become balanced.

Whereas many traditional physicians focus on the headlines causing fear in people, you can develop a plan for a healthier, stronger lifestyle by optimizing your key hormones. Hormone specialists can help keep you feeling comfortable and educated about the treatment process.

How Does Testosterone Therapy Reduce Heart Disease, Heart Attacks, and Cardiovascular Disease?

A review article published in December 2013 in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) provides a comprehensive review of the clinical literature looking at associations between testosterone and cardiovascular diseases. Over 100 studies were reviewed, and the authors concluded that low levels of testosterone are associated with increased rates of overall mortality, cardiovascular-related mortality, and higher rates of obesity and diabetes.

Finding the answer to the question of “how to lower blood pressure on testosterone?” can be a little confusing. The most straightforward way to explain this is that one of the benefits of testosterone therapy is that it’s been shown to relax coronary arteries. Patients with congestive heart failure are more likely to exercise. Additionally, testosterone lowers blood sugar in diabetics, promotes lower blood pressure, and lowers body mass index (BMI) in obese patients. Finally, studies have associated lower testosterone levels with thicker walls of major arteries, increasing the risk of atherosclerosis. All of these factors point to the conclusion that optimal testosterone levels decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The results of the current study, despite all of the media coverage, are essentially meaningless. Testosterone therapy can be an excellent way to help men to improve their quality of life and decrease their risk of multiple diseases. This is shown in the overwhelming majority of studies. So again, be wary of news headlines. Consider consulting with a hormone specialist, as there are many problems with the Plos One study.

What’s Wrong With the Plos One Study

Men should feel comfortable pursuing testosterone therapy, and not feel worried about erroneous conclusions from old data or poor studies. From the way the study was completed to the manner in which participants were analyzed, the Plos One study had limitations that prevented men from seeing that heart attack and testosterone therapy aren’t really linked together, especially when under the care of a trained Age Management physician. 

Problem One: The Plos One study was an observational study. Randomized, controlled trials show testosterone therapy provides considerable cardiovascular protection.

Observational studies are popular in making news headlines and are the most common form of study. An observational study simply looks at data points and draws a conclusion without determining whether one variable causes or affects the other. But research from the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health reveals limitations with observational studies. Specifically, limitations concerning validity and bias. For example, an article in Reuters titled “Doctors Use Hormones More Often Than Describe Them” suggests doctors themselves might have biased opinions on testosterone therapy for men.

Although large amounts of testosterone may harm the heart (just like taking too much of any medication can be detrimental), research from Harvard Health shows physiological amounts of testosterone can increase blood flow to the heart and aid in reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease. The truth is that observational studies let anyone draw conclusions. But an observer is limited to details they can observe, and even then, that information can be misinterpreted.

Randomized, controlled studies limit bias and confounding factors. Controlled studies show testosterone demonstrates considerable cardiovascular protection. Controlled studies prevent the data from studies from being manipulated and misconstrued. If you want to feel comfortable with testosterone therapy, know that the Plos One study’s data could easily have been misunderstood by the observer. If you manipulate the data of any study long enough, you can get it to show anything you want.

Problem Two: The Plos One study failed to assess the testosterone levels of patients before and during therapy.

The Plos One study only assessed testosterone levels of men who filled a prescription for testosterone, not whether they took it correctly – or at all – or what their testosterone levels were before and during therapy. A physician cannot determine if a patient is a good candidate for therapy without properly assessing your testosterone levels and symptoms. Be wary of what you read or hear, because some of the research on testosterone and heart attacks is unreliable.

Furthermore, Harvard Health tells us that those who don’t get enough testosterone are those who are at the highest risk of cardiac-related death. The men in the Plos One study could have had low amounts of testosterone in their blood because they weren’t taking the prescribed testosterone or their dose was too low. As a result, they could have been observed as showing signs of an unhealthy heart. Readers of the study wouldn’t know what they’re missing.

For confidence and comfort in choosing testosterone therapy, side with advice from Age Management specialists who know the intricacies of the studies on the topic. 

Problem Three: The Plos One study uses a faulty control group.

A “control group” refers to the standard to which comparisons are made. The authors compared the groups of men who were prescribed testosterone therapy to men who were prescribed a class of drugs called PDE5 inhibitors. You’ve heard of these drugs before by their brand names: Viagra and Cialis. The authors found a lower risk of heart disease in the PDE5 inhibitor group…the “control” group. But the authors of this study used this group “as a comparison” to the testosterone group. That means in order to match the increased sex drive and function of the men on testosterone, they gave the control group Viagra or Cialis to match the possible increase in the testosterone group.

With that being said, PDE5 inhibitors benefit the cardiovascular system substantially. Two PDE5 inhibitors have even recently been approved for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary hypertension for one main reason: their ability to relax blood vessels. A new study in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Therapeutics states that PDE5 inhibitors can work as cardiovascular drugs in patients with coronary artery disease, as well as those who have had issues with heart failure in the past.

Still, PDE5 inhibitors can decrease the risk of heart disease by relaxing the blood vessels in men who already have heart disease. How can the authors of this study possibly think that men on PDE5 inhibitors would be a good control group against the men placed on testosterone?

They can’t!

The results of the Plos One study run counter to an overwhelming amount of literature of over 25 years that supports the use of testosterone as an important therapy that can lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, reduce body fat, and increase lean muscle mass. These are all factors that reduce the risk of heart disease. Testosterone therapy is effective in reducing the risk for both heart disease and heart attacks, making testosterone therapy essential to men’s health. 

Envision how you want your life, your body, and your health to look as you age and you’ll hopefully see testosterone therapy and overall hormone optimization as a reliable option. Lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels equal a reduced risk of disease and a healthier life overall. Lowering body fat is critical for many men who are aging and want to lower their risk of heart problems and disease. Controlled, randomized studies don’t have the limitations that observational studies do. Controlled studies show cardiovascular benefits. The overwhelming body of research shows the benefits of testosterone therapy and its effects on reducing the risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. 

Show your doctor this blog post, especially if he or she tells you testosterone is going to increase your risk of heart attacks. The truth is, you probably know more than he or she does about this study after reading this. That’s because health care professionals themselves may have formed biased opinions on the information regarding testosterone and heart attacks, as well as testosterone therapy and its benefits. Where they see risks based on observation, more relevant studies show the benefits and potential men can strive for with testosterone therapy.

Starting today, you need to determine what testosterone levels are. Call us for a full hormonal evaluation and consultation at 323-874-9355 or email info@carraghermethod.com for more information!

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