An analysis of four small studies on patients being treated for heart failure and the male hormone testosterone have yielded some promising results, but researchers urge caution in interpreting the findings- i.e., don’t go buying any internet testosterone just yet.
The meta-study was published this week in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation Heart Failure, but cumulatively, all four studies only included 198 patients, the analysis’ lead author concedes. The studies were conducted between 1980 and 2000, and patients had an average age of 67. Three of the studies focused solely on male patients with heart failure, while the fourth only included females.
The total number of patients included was relatively tiny at less than 200, but researchers note that the findings could ultimately provide insights into how testosterone could be of benefit to both male and female heart failure patients. Essentially, what the study looked at was the ability of testosterone to increase muscle mass as well as increase activity level, something with which many patients with congestive heart failure struggle when becoming ill.
Clyde Yancy, MD is chief of cardiology at Chicago’s Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine. Yancy is also a spokesman for the American Heart Association, and of the findings, he says:
“Patients with heart failure don’t feel very well, in part because they can’t exercise… The idea of a novel treatment approach that can help improve exercise capacity is very intriguing.”
Researcher Justin A. Ezekowitz, MD comments on the heart failure study’s findings:
“The improvement in exercise capacity was striking… Patients in the testosterone group were generally able to walk longer than those in the placebo group.”
In the study, half the heart failure patients received testosterone via a patch, a gel or injection, while the other half were given a placebo. “Larger and longer” studies focused on testosterone and heart failure are needed, researchers say, to fully explore its potential.