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Taking testosterone may not improve men’s sexual function or quality of life.

Recent Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) research has found that testosterone use among men doesn’t appear to increase their risk of developing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), a condition that can lead to severe cardiovascular diseases. The same study, however, also found that these same men failed to realize the quality of life benefits that are often the primary goals of testosterone therapy.

Testosterone, a hormone primarily secreted by the testicles, plays a key role not only in male reproductive tissues, but also in muscle growth, bone mass, and metabolism. As men get older, their testosterone levels naturally decline – an average of one percent a year after age 40. In an attempt to counter this natural decline, an increasing number of men over the past decade have turned to testosterone therapy.

Although previous studies aimed at examining rates of adverse cardiovascular events in men taking testosterone have produced conflicting results, concerns remain that testosterone therapy might increase a person’s risk of a heart attack or stroke. BWH investigators developed the Testosterone’s Effects on Atherosclerosis Progression in Aging Men (TEAAM) trial to explore whether there is link between testosterone use and atherosclerosis, a critical risk factor for heart attack and stroke. The three-year study found that administering testosterone to older men (over 60) with low to low normal testosterone levels had no effect on the progression of hardening of the arteries, but also did not significantly improve sexual function or health-related quality of life.

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