As we get older, our levels of testosterone (the "male" hormone) decline. Because of this decline, some men and women experience loss of libido, fatigue, reduced mental sharpness and increased body fat. And now there seems to be even more reason to make sure that your body has the testosterone it needs—heart health.

Newest Findings

Most studies (but not all demonstrate that low levels of testosterone increase the risk for heart disease. And in a study published in Heart, researchers found that men with heart disease whose testosterone levels were low were almost twice as likely to die over a seven-year period as those with heart disease but normal levels of testosterone.

Low levels of testosterone also have been associated with cardiovascular risk factors, including increased levels of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol...heightened risk for insulin resistance...and blood vessel wall dysfunction.

Can You Benefit?

Recent research suggests that the prevalence of abnormally low testosterone levels may be more widespread than was previously thought. In one study, from the New England Research Institutes in Watertown, Massachusetts, researchers analyzed data from 1,500 men and discovered that 24% had low total testosterone. They estimate that in about 15 years, as the population ages, as many as 6,5 million American men will have a testosterone deficiency.

Testosterone levels can be tested with either a saliva test for free testosterone or a blood test for both total and free testosterone. Both tests work equally well.

My Testosterone Protocol

For my patients with low testosterone, I prescribe a bioidentical transdermal testosterone in gel or cream form.

For men: I usually prescribe a gel or cream containing 50 mg to 100 mg, to be applied each morning. If men don't respond within a few weeks to the gel or cream, I often prescribe a once-weekly injection.

For women: Women need much lower amounts of testosterone than men. I often recommend applying a daily dose of a gel or cream containing 0.5 mg to 2 mg of testosterone (depending on the patient's testosterone level). Women usually experience symptom relief including increased libido and enhanced energy) within four to eight weeks of starting to take testosterone.

If your doctor prescribes topical testosterone for you, make sure that it doesn't come in contact with anyone else (including pets).

Taking testosterone can occasionally cause side effects in men and women, including acne, fluid retention, tender breasts and facial hair growth in women and prostate growth in men. The most common side effect I see is acne breakouts, and this only rarely.

Both men and women can take testosterone indefinitely as long as they are closely monitored

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