Guyside: Getting testy about testosterone

Posted by on Feb 12, 2014 in aging, appearance, Early menopause, estrogen, Guyside, heart disease, HRT, men, menopause, sexual desire, sexual health | 0 comments

CC-licenced photo by Flickr user http://www.flickr.com/photos/eschipul/ There’s no doubt that men think about the effects of aging on their bodies. And if there were, a viewing of ads for hair colouring, hair thickening agents, or erectile dysfunction drugs would quickly convince you. You could be a new man!

And as regular Flashfree readers will know, one of the things that’s been touted as a solution to the woes of the aging male is testosterone replacement therapy.

The basic idea is that men may have a condition that’s referred to as “Low T.” And so a gel, a patch, a tablet or an injection may bring you back to a more energetic, athletic, virile condition. The pitch has been made more and more convincingly, by all accounts: an Australian research team found that the sales of testsosterone treatments went from $150 million in 2001 to $1.8 billion¬†in 2012.

That’s a 1200% increase. The Australian research indicated that the amount of testosterone being prescribed far outstripped the incidence of “male menopause” or andropause. So what’s going on? Oh, I suspect there’s a generous helping of vanity involved here.

But if it were simply a matter of making men feel better about themselves, it would just be a waste of money. A growing body of research evidence is suggesting that treating Low T may increase the risk of cardiac events. The most recent, an article from the open-access journal PLOS ONE, suggests a substantial increase in the risk of myocardial infarction — what we normally refer to as a heart attack — with the use of testosterone, for men under and over 65 years of age.

I’m sure there are men with diagnostic criteria that would make testosterone therapy an appropriate choice, with a careful calculation of the risks and benefits. But if my hair’s getting a little thin, if I’m not feeling as “macho” as I once was — do I really want to be using a hormone supplement that could put me at risk of a heart attack?

It’s very easy to succumb to marketing-based ¬†pitches that appeal to what we think we need as men. But it’s important for us to not jump at those pitches without thinking about the risks and the benefits carefully.

There was a rush to use estrogen and progesterone to help women with symptoms of menopause several years ago, and then a panic when those therapies were associated with increased cardiac symptoms.

I’m no doctor, and I’m certainly not saying that nobody should be using hormones in this way. But I do think that we should think through ALL of our medical decisions and ensure we’re taking the risks seriously.

(photo: CC-licenced image by Flickr user Ed Schipul)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *