It's not just for muscle anymore
The use of the male hormone testosterone has really received a bad rap over the past fifteen or twenty years. Professional body builders have been known to take large amounts of testosterone in order to build muscle. Because thousands of young men took testosterone for athletic improvement, it became a controlled substance by the Federal Drug Administration. However, considering the number of people who have used testosterone at an early age and the number of years for which it has been used, the amount of side effects that have occurred are infinitesimally small.
The use of testosterone in patients is not only to increase muscle mass. If you are 50, 60, or 70 and look at your muscle mass in the mirror, I think you will realize that it is not what it was at 20 or 30 years of age. Testosterone levels are the highest in our late teens and early twenties and then slowly drop off throughout our life. At age 50 the testosterone levels are less than half of what they were at age 20. By age 70 and 80 the levels are substantially lower.
Testosterone is found in females as well and has basically the same effect on females as males. The major effects of testosterone are decreased fat and increased muscle mass ratio, improved bone density, improved skin thickness, improved mental acuity, improved cardiac output, and of course improved sex drive and function.
The highest concentration of testosterone in the body is found in the cardiac muscle. There are numerous studies, mainly conducted in Europe, that show testosterone is a safe and effective way of increasing and maintaining good cardiac muscle and thus helping prevent cardiac failure with advancing age.
The prejudice against hormones is starting to fade and the use of testosterone in a medical practice, particularly as related to aging, is becoming accepted. The one area where caution needs to be is in the potential for patients with prostate cancer. Testosterone does not cause prostate cancer, but since testosterone stimulates all living tissue particularly the prostate, it might be found to increase the rate of growth of prostate cancer.
The first step in considering testosterone replacement is to have the testosterone level drawn and also the PSA (prostate specific antigen in men). This gives a baseline so that safe and rational methods of testosterone application can be applied in men. Testosterone is available in pills, patches, creams or gels, and by injections. The use of hormone releasers can also be effective, especially in younger patients. The oral form of testosterone is generally not our preference because the bulk of testosterone is converted immediately as the pill absorption passes through the liver. We will be happy to discuss the use of testosterone as part of an anti-aging program or as part of your cardiac care program in helping provide protection to the heart muscle.