Don't be fooled by all those television commercials advertising "LOW-T" medication. "LOW-T" stands for low testosterone. The medicine they are peddling is the hormone testosterone.
Simply put, if you take that medication, you are on "testosterone therapy." The ads suggest taking testosterone will restore a man's sex drive and energy. Therefore, it's not surprising that the sales of testosterone gel, patches, or injections have gone through the roof in recent years, to the tune of $400 million a year.
The most recent data is from three years ago. At that time, doctors prescribed testosterone therapy to 5.3 million men, which is about five times higher than a decade earlier. You can bet that number of prescriptions has significantly increased since 2011, thanks largely to the slick marketing campaign. The promise of a fountain of youth is tough to resist.
But there is a serious risk associated with "LOW-T" medications.
New research indicates testosterone therapy doubles the risk of heart attack. Also the Food and Drug Administration is looking into the likelihood that testosterone therapy also increases the risk of stroke and death.
Scientists have known for some time that the risk of heart attack in all men over the age of 65 doubles if they are taking testosterone therapy. But now that risk extends to men younger than 65. New evidence from Consolidated Research in Los Angeles suggests men who are younger than 65, who have a history of heart disease, are at double the risk of a heart attack if they are on testosterone therapy.
Researchers found the heart attack risk doubled in just 90 days after the men began testosterone therapy. Although the two-fold increase in risk in younger men was seen only in those with a history of heart disease, William Finkle, one of the lead researchers, said all men should be wary of testosterone therapy.
"We don't have enough evidence to say testosterone supplements in men under age 65 without heart disease are safe," he said.
Future studies could prove the risk is for all men, regardless of their history of heart disease.
And while these strong warnings exist, there are some men who benefit from testosterone therapy. The key is accurately diagnosing and treating low testosterone. For example, some men who don't even need testosterone take it, and other men, who actually do need it, take TOO MUCH of it.
Those television commercials, online quizzes (which are sponsored by the same companies behind the commercials), even well-meaning internists and physician-assistants often tell men they need testosterone therapy if you they are experiencing low libido and low energy.
The problem with that diagnosis is that describes far too many men that actually need the therapy. Sometimes a blood test is taken, but that too, is not conclusive enough.
As a point of clarification, it should be noted that candidates for testosterone therapy are men with low libido, or in other words, men who aren't very interested in sex. Low libido is not a symptom of erectile dysfunction. The main symptom of ED is a mechanical problem. In other words, the drive is there, but the physical capability is not. Many people think LOW-T and ED are the same thing, but they are not.
Here's the right solution:
A man with low libido and low energy, who is wondering whether the problem might be low testosterone, SHOULD SEE A UROLOGIST. It's important that the urologist check your testosterone level FIRST THING IN THE MORNING.
Testosterone therapy is not always the answer, and if it is, it's important to get the right dose.
Obesity causes low testosterone. Enzymes in belly fat convert testosterone to estrogen. This is what's behind men having breasts, commonly referred to as "man boobs." So if you lose weight, your testosterone levels might rise naturally.
Depression also causes low testosterone. So focusing on beating depression can raise your testosterone levels, without taking the hormone. This can be done without medication in many cases through exercise, spiritual growth, and therapy.
And one more thing: testosterone therapy is hormone replacement therapy. We know that hormone replacement therapy is a very common treatment for women experiencing menopause symptoms. In fact, most doctors say HRT is the best treatment for menopause symptoms.
But just like testosterone therapy in men, women who are considering hormone replacement therapy should make sure they visit a hormone specialist, such as a gynecologist, before embarking on HRT.