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Testosterone and Cardiovascular Disease Relationship

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When we think about testosterone and all of the benefits it provides you with, you’ll automatically think about physical performance – increased muscle mass and strength, lower body fat and better body composition for example.

But did you know that by optimizing your testosterone levels you can also reduce the risk of a number of long-term health problems?

In this article we’ll tell you how achieving the right T levels can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and other associated metabolic illnesses. If you’re interested in boosting not only your physical performance but your health too, you’ll want to give this one a read…


The Role of Testosterone

Testosterone (T) is the principal male hormone. It’s roles within the body are wide and diverse, but when levels are optimal you look and feel healthier. T is responsible for your masculine features, your deep voice and your broad shoulders.

Male hormones also play an important role in developing muscle mass, metabolism and fat distribution too – optimal levels will help you to keep your body composition lean and muscular and with minimal fat storage.

Produced by the testes, your androgen hormones also regulate your sex drive and sexual performance. Get your levels right and you’ll have a great sex life and a high libido. It’ll also ensure that your testes produce enough sperm and semen too.

It can be difficult to define what ‘normal’ T levels are as healthy levels are quite broad. Clinically though, anything between 300 and 1000 ng.dL is healthy. One thing is for sure though – as you age, your testosterone naturally starts to drop, and once you hit 30 you can expect a drop of around a 1% each year.

Low T – clinically referred to as hypogonadism – is when your T levels fall below 300 ng.dL. Currently, approximately 30% of men over 60 have clinically low testosterone [1] and the numbers are ever-increasing.

If this happens you’ll start to lose all of the benefits we’ve discussed so far – you’re muscle mass and strength will disappear and you’ll quickly start to pile on belly fat. You’re libido will become non-existent and so will your physical and sexual performance. It really is that severe.

Testosterone Also Supports Health

It also appears that there are strong links between low T and long-term illness, with hypogonadism being linked to a number of risk factors for physical and mental illnesses.

Diminished T are strongly linked with decreased bone density, depression, obesity and diabetes for example. There also appears to be a strong link between testosterone levels and risk of cardiovascular disease too. But why is this male hormone linked so closely to long-term heart health?

Read on to find out…


cvd-healthy-heart

Key Point: Low testosterone levels are linked to a number of long-term physical and mental illnesses.


Testosterone and Cardiovascular Disease

Studies have found that there is a bidirectional relationship between testosterone and metabolic health [2]. In fact, the relationship is so strong that serum testosterone can be used as a predictor of the development of type 2 diabetes and obesity – particularly visceral adiposity which is often referred to as belly fat. 

High body mass, obesity and diabetes are all risk factors for long-term illness – in combination they are often referred to as metabolic syndrome. This in turn is associated with the development of cardiovascular disease, or CVD.

CVD itself refers to any long-term illness that affects either the heart or blood vessels – these include angina, heart attack and coronary heart disease.

According to statistics, deaths related to the heart and circulatory system were the second most common cause of death in the US in 2015, accounting for over 150,000 deaths [3]. 

Many of these illnesses are related to atherosclerosis – a condition where fatty plaques build up in the artery walls leading to reduced blood flow or the formation of blood clots.

The strongest predictors of atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease are aging and lifestyle [4]. This risk factor has led to a widespread assumption that falling testosterone levels may be to blame.

Testosterone certainly has benefits here – it has been found to dilate blood vessels, making it easier for blood to flow and not build up behind plaque buildup. This in turn means that blood pressure won’t increase as dramatically and your risk of CVD decreases.

A number of epidemiology studies (these look at patterns and effects on health) support these links.

Firstly, many studies show that having optimal T can protect a man’s arteries from hardening, as well as reducing plaque build up [5]. Additionally, studies also suggest that our male hormones help to deactivate the cells that build up within arteries and form the cell debris that eventually causes plaque.

For example, a study published in the Journal of National Cancer Institute [6] used therapy that blunted testosterone production in a group of over 30,000 older men. Over time, the researchers analysed the health of the men and found that there were a significant number who developed CVD or suffered a heart attack. 

These results were echoed in a similar study of older men in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism [1].

In this study, researchers wanted to look at men with low T and any links with cause of death – what they call ‘all-cause mortality’. The study involved a total of 794 men aged between 50 and 91 years old. Over an 11-year period, 538 died from a variety of reasons.

Men who had T levels lower than 240 ng.dL were 40% more likely to die than those with higher concentrations. The most likely, statistically significant causes of death were cardiovascular disease followed by respiratory disease. 


healthy-man-running

Key Point: Low testosterone is associated with cardiovascular disease and mortality.


Summary

Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in the Western world.

Research suggests that those who have low testosterone levels are at a higher risk of developing primary risk factors of vascular disease such as obesity, diabetes and metabolic disease.

As the primary male hormone, testosterone helps to protect against heart and vascular diseases and promote health and well-being. It is important that you aim to optimize circulating levels.


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References

  1. Laughlin, GA et al. Low serum testosterone and mortality in older men. JCEM. 2008; 93(1): 68-75
  2. Wang, C et al. Low Testosterone Associated With Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome Contributes to Sexual Dysfunction and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Men With Type 2 Diabetes. 
  3. Townsend N et al. Cardiovascular disease statistics. 2015. British Heart Foundation: London.
  4. Nettleship, JE et al. Testosterone and coronary artery disease. Front Horm Res. 2009; 37: 91-107
  5. Malkin, CJ et al. Testosterone as a protective factor against atherosclerosis – immunomodulation and influence upon plaque development and stability. J Endoc. 2003; 178: 373-380
  6. Keating, NL et al. Diabetes and cardiovascular disease during androgen deprivation therpay: observational study of veterans with prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2010; 102: 39-46

 


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