There has been much interest in the effect of sex hormones on cardiovascular risk factors and as a therapeutic modality in both men and women. In this article, testosterone is considered as a possible therapy for cardiovascular disease. It has been shown that the level of serum testosterone decreases in men as they age. Healthy men with low testosterone levels have increased cardiovascular risk factors, including high fasting and 2-hour plasma glucose, serum triglycerides, total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and apo A-l lipoprotein. Injections of testosterone to raise the levels to midnormal range have been shown to decrease total cholesterol and I.DL cholesterol, while increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Testosterone affects the clotting system by increasing thromboxane A2 receptor activity and platelet aggregability. Testosterone has also been shown to augment the fibrinolytic system and antithrombin III activity. In men, testosterone has been shown to have antianginal effects, and endogenous levels have an inverse relationship to systolic blood pressure. Testosterone can be given in oral, injectable, pellet, and transdermal patch forms. There may be a role in administering testosterone to return men to normal physiologic range who have low serum levels. This treatment increases the risk of prostatic cancer, benign prostatism, erythrocytosis, and edema. No long-term studies of the effects of long-term testosterone replacement have been undertaken, so it is difficult to recommend this treatment as yet, but it is being considered as a therapy for augmenting skeletal muscle strength in patients with congestive heart failure.
© 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.