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What are some side effects of testosterone supplements in older men?

Marc B. Garnick, MD
Hematology & Oncology
A clinical trial funded primarily by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) that set out to address if testosterone supplementation can improve mobility in frail older men was halted after participants using a testosterone gel suffered heart attacks and other cardiac problems.

The trial included 209 men, with an average age of 74, who had low testosterone levels, limited mobility, and high rates of chronic disease; 106 men applied the testosterone gel daily for six months while 103 men used a placebo. Twenty-three testosterone users experienced heart-related side effects, compared with five men in the placebo group. Adverse effects included heart attack, stroke, elevated blood pressure, changes in heart rhythm, and chest pain. Participants in the testosterone group did increase their strength and mobility, but the risk of heart trouble mitigated these benefits.

Researchers caution against drawing broad conclusions from these findings, given the relatively small number of study participants, their age, and their poor health. They also note that the testosterone doses used in the study were higher than standard prescription doses.

Testosterone supplementation is approved to treat hypogonadism, a condition characterized by low testosterone levels. Older patients and their physicians should carefully weigh the risks and benefits of the therapy before starting it, especially because testosterone can fuel the growth of prostate cancer.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.