A related issue is the potential use of testosterone as a coronary vasodilator and anti-anginal agent. Testosterone has been shown to act as a vasodilator of coronary arteries at physiological concentrations during angiography (Webb, McNeill et al 1999). Furthermore men given a testosterone injection prior to exercise testing showed improved performance, as assessed by ST changes compared to placebo (Rosano et al 1999; Webb, Adamson et al 1999). Administration of one to three months of testosterone treatment has also been shown to improve symptoms of angina and exercise test performance (Wu and Weng 1993; English et al 2000; Malkin, Pugh, Morris et al 2004). Longer term studies are underway. It is thought that testosterone improves angina due its vasodilatory action, which occurs independently of the androgen receptor, via blockade of L-type calcium channels at the cell membrane of the vascular smooth muscle in an action similar to the dihydropyridine calcium-channel blockers such as nifedipine (Hall et al 2006).
There are pills in the United States for testosterone supplementation, but their use is strongly discouraged because they cause significant liver toxicity. A safe oral formulation called testosterone undecanoate is available in Canada and in Europe, but not in the United States. What’s quite exciting is that an injectable version of testosterone undecanoate (Nebido) was submitted to the FDA for approval in August 2007. (It’s already approved in many other countries.) It lasts for 12 weeks, so a patient could come in and get a shot about four times a year. [Editor’s note: In December 2009, the brand name of the drug in the United States was changed to Aveed. As of January 2011, it was still awaiting FDA approval.]
Other side effects include increased risk of heart problems in older men with poor mobility, according to a 2009 study at Boston Medical Center. A 2017 study published in JAMA found that treatments increase coronary artery plaque volume. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires manufactures to include a notice on the labeling that states taking testosterone treatments can lead to possible increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. The FDA recommends that patients using testosterone should seek medical attention right away if they have these symptoms:
My preference is to start men on testosterone, for a couple of reasons. First, if a man has successful return of his own erections, it’s like a home run for him. He doesn’t have to take a pill in anticipation of having sex. He can have sex whenever he wants. Second, the benefits of testosterone-replacement therapy often go way beyond erectile dysfunction. That may be what brought the patient into the office originally, but then he comes back saying how much better he feels in general, how much more energetic and motivated he is, how his drives on the golf course seem to be going farther, and how his mood is better.
If you take a statin (cholesterol lowering medication) and you follow the 30-Day Heart Tune-Up program, there is a good chance you’ll be able to work with your doctor and over time safely stop your statin medication. Statin medications lower cholesterol, and you need cholesterol to make testosterone. Ask your doctor what you can do with lifestyle changes to not need a statin medication. Improving your cholesterol profile is only part of the answer. Many of the risk calculators doctors use look at tobacco use, body weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. Improve all your risk factors, and often you won’t qualify for a medication!
Testosterone levels generally peak during adolescence and early adulthood. As you get older, your testosterone level gradually declines — typically about 1 percent a year after age 30 or 40. It is important to determine in older men if a low testosterone level is simply due to the decline of normal aging or if it is due to a disease (hypogonadism).