In the never ending saga of testosterone and male aging, a new report concludes that low levels of the sex hormone might increase a man’s chances of dying from heart disease.
During the five-year study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism last month, researchers monitored over 3,600 men aged 70-88 living on their and own and found that nearly six percent died due to heart disease – those with low levels of testosterone leading the pack.
Despite the findings, researchers say they still face one big unknown when it comes to low testosterone levels (also called low T) and premature death – the question of causation versus correlation.
Earlier this year, a large analysis of previous medical studies concluded that drooping testosterone is unlikely to curb a man’s lifespan, but instead might just dip along with declining health.
“Low T is associated with poor health,” Dr. Frederick Wu, a hormone expert at the University of Manchester in the UK, told Reuters Health by email. “But it does not mean that low T is the cause of poor health or increased mortality.”
Though declining T levels may not reduce a man’s number of years, Zoe Hyde of the Western Australia Center for Health and Aging, who worked on the latest study, said that isn’t the case when it comes to heart disease.
“There is good evidence that testosterone has beneficial effects with regard to the cardiovascular system,” Hyde told Reuters via Email. “For example, testosterone has been shown to increase lean mass (including muscle), whilst decreasing fat mass. It can also have some positive effects on cholesterol levels.”
Acknowledging that the testosterone-heart disease study wasn’t definitive, she then added:
“We need to wait for the results of clinical trials before we can properly understand both the benefits and also the risks of testosterone therapy.”