Hormone therapy is a treatment recommended for men suffering from hypogonadism (reduced testosterone production) and other disorders related to an unnatural decrease in hormone production. However, over the course of the years, multiple side effects of this testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) have been discovered.
Five studies were recently published in the Journal of American Medical Association, detailing the pros and cons of TRT. Here are what the studies discovered:
Pro #1: Testosterone can improve bone mineral density. This can lead to an increase in estimated bone strength. A longer-term trial is needed to determine whether TRT can decrease the risk of fractures, but suffice it to say an increase in hormones can lead to stronger bones.
Con #1: Testosterone may pose a cardiac risk. Men undergoing TRT had greater coronary plaque buildup than men in the placebo group. They also had higher instances of non-calcified plaque. Plaque can reduce the flexibility of the arteries and increase the risk of damage to the arterial walls, as well as reduce blood flow.
Caveat: The group undergoing TRT had a lower long-term (three-four years) risk of cardiovascular events than the placebo group.
Pro #2: Testosterone can improve anemia. TRT can improve hemoglobin levels, reducing the risk of anemia or treating existing anemics. The trial reported as much as a 40% increase in hemoglobin levels among the testosterone group. Iron-deficiency anemia and unexplained anemia were both corrected by TRT.
Granted, this is one small group of studies, so there is a lot more research needed in order to determine the full range of effects—positive and negative—brought on by testosterone replacement therapy.
But, suffice it to say, TRT has both its pros and its cons. You need to understand that if you’re considering undergoing the treatment, as it could factor into future health problems. You may be putting your heart at risk, making it potentially dangerous for those with a family history of cardiovascular problems. At the same time, the TRT may actually help to reduce your risk of both bone degeneration (osteoporosis) and anemia (both iron-deficiency and unexplained).
Before you undergo TRT, talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of the treatment. Knowledge is more than just power—it’s the best way to stay healthy as you undergo treatments like TRT.
1. Resnick, Susan M., Alvin M. Matsumoto, Alisa J. Stephens-Shields, Susan S. Ellenberg, Thomas M. Gill, Sally A. Shumaker, Debbie D. Pleasants, et al. “Testosterone Treatment and Cognitive Function in Older Men With Low Testosterone and Age-Associated Memory Impairment.” JAMA 317, no. 7 (February 21, 2017): 717–27. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.21044.