Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.See all posts »
Best Practices for a Healthy Heart Step 7: Hormones and Men
My book, Best Practices for a Healthy Heart: How to Stop Heart Disease Before or After it Starts, was published in June by The Experiment publishing house, and is distributed by Workman. In the book, I outline seven important steps that will help you to achieve optimum heart health and provide you with powerful protection against stroke, dementia, and even cancer.
We’ve gone through Step One (Know Your Numbers), Step Two (Eat Well to Live Better), Step Three (Learn How to Take a Break without Checking Out), Step Four (Get a Move On), Step 5 (Use Your Common Sense), and Step Six (Know Your Options). In Step Seven, “Be Hip to Your Hormones”, I’ll bring you up to date on the latest information connecting hormones, including estrogen and testosterone, to heart health.
In a recent post, I addressed the ways that hormones affect women’s hearts. Now it’s the men’s turn. Ironically, while heart disease in women received short shrift for decades, we now know more about the effects of estrogen on the heart than we do about testosterone.
The word “andropause” has become a popular term used to explain changes in men’s health and libido at middle age and beyond, but in truth, most men don’t experience the drastic dive in hormone levels that is so common in menopause. Instead, levels of testosterone tend to gradually decline by about one percent per year after the age of 50. Not only is there less testosterone around, but the body tissue becomes less sensitive to the effects of the hormone as time marches on. This leads to such indignities as reduced muscle tone, thinner skin, weaker bone structure, and erectile dysfunction.
Just like menopause, lower testosterone levels are part of natural aging, but the good news is that there are steps you can take to slow down or even reverse the process to some extent. Exercise can make an important difference, but only if you are committed at least two and one half hours weekly. Exercise also appears to improve semen quality, improving fertility. If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight may give your testosterone levels an important boost.
If you think you may have a low level of testosterone, check in with your doctor. A blood test can diagnose the problem, although the range of what is considered “normal” is broad. Treatment generally involves testosterone shots or creams which are absorbed through the skin. Don’t be tempted to try the testosterone pill supplements that are often peddled over the internet or by unscrupulous trainers. These can cause liver abnormalities and may increase the likelihood of some forms of cancer.
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