Testosterone supplements for men have been linked to an increased risk of death, heart attack and stroke, according to study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Researchers studied health records of more than 8,700 older men and found those who used testosterone supplements were 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or die after three years of use.

Testosterone treatment increases risk of heart attack, stroke, death

Testosterone supplements, such as the prescription topical treatments Androgel, Testim and Axiron, are use to help boost testosterone levels in men who have a deficiency of the male hormone. Symptoms of low testosterone include decreased libido and low energy.

In recent years, sales of testosterone supplements have skyrocketed, fueled by pricey marketing campaigns that encourage men to talk to their doctors to see if testosterone therapy is right for them. As a result, testosterone supplementation has grown to a billion-dollar industry that has increased more than five-fold from 2000 to 2011.

More than 5.3 million prescriptions are written for testosterone products each year. Nearly 3 percent of all men in the United States older than 40 use the drugs.

Little was known about the long-term effects of testosterone therapy until researchers with the University of Colorado study revealed their findings. Not only did they find that men who used testosterone supplements for three years or more were at greater risk of cardiovascular problems or death, they also found other disturbing evidence.

Fourteen percent of men who started testosterone therapy after undergoing an angiography were mostly younger and slightly healthier than the 86 percent who did not use the hormones. However, after an average of three years, the men who used testosterone supplements were nearly 30 percent more likely than those who did not take the hormones to have a stroke, heart attack, or die from any cause. Furthermore, men who started the study with clear, unobstructed coronary arteries were just as likely to have a heart attack, stroke or die as men who entered the study with established coronary artery disease.

Researchers say the study raises definite concerns about testosterone supplementation that men should discuss with their doctors.

Testim and Androgel already carry a warning to users to wash their hands thoroughly after applying the gel, and to cover the area of the body where the gel was applied because unintended exposure to women, children, and even pets has resulted in adverse reactions. For example, children who have been accidentally exposed to the gel have shown signs of premature puberty that could have long-term effects.

Source: ABC News

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