Testosterone therapy may be used for a variety of medical conditions. It may come with side effects, such as acne or other skin problems, prostate growth, and reduced sperm production.
Testosterone therapy may also affect your cholesterol levels. Research on testosterone and cholesterol has produced mixed results, however.
Some researchers have found that testosterone lowers both high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. Others have found testosterone doesn’t affect either of them.
Studies on the effect of testosterone on total cholesterol are also contradictory. On the other hand, several studies have found testosterone has no effect on triglyceride levels. So, testosterone can’t lower triglyceride levels, but researchers don’t know how or even if it affects total, HDL, and LDL cholesterol.
What’s the connection? Read on to learn more about testosterone and cholesterol.
Testosterone therapy is usually given for one of two reasons. First, some males have a condition known as hypogonadism. If you have hypogonadism, your body doesn’t make enough testosterone. Testosterone is an important hormone. It plays a key role in the development and maintenance of male physical traits.
The second reason is to treat the natural decline of testosterone. Testosterone levels start to decline in males after age 30, but the decline is gradual. Some want to make up for the lost muscle mass and sex drive that results from this decrease in testosterone.
Cholesterol is a fatlike substance found in the bloodstream. We need some cholesterol for healthy cell production. A buildup of too much LDL cholesterol, however, leads to the formation of plaque in the walls of arteries. This is known as atherosclerosis.
When a person has atherosclerosis, plaque inside the artery wall slowly builds up and bulges into the artery. This can narrow the arteries enough to significantly reduce blood flow.
When that happens in an artery of the heart called a coronary artery, the result is chest pain called angina. When the bulge of plaque suddenly ruptures, a blood clot forms around it. This can completely block the artery, leading to a heart attack.
Once LDL cholesterol is in your liver, it can eventually be filtered out of your body. A low HDL level is considered a risk factor for heart disease. A high HDL has a protective effect.
A 2013 review notes that some scientists have observed males who take testosterone medications may have a decrease in their HDL levels. However, results of studies haven’t been consistent. Other scientists found testosterone didn’t affect HDL levels.
The effect of testosterone on HDL cholesterol may vary depending on the person. Age may be a factor. The type or dose of your testosterone medication may also influence its effect on your cholesterol.
The review also notes other researchers found that males who had normal HDL and LDL cholesterol levels had no significant changes in their cholesterol levels after they took testosterone. But those same researchers found that males with chronic disease saw their HDL levels drop slightly.
Currently, the effect of testosterone on cholesterol isn’t clear. As more and more people consider taking testosterone supplements, it’s encouraging to know that there’s a lot of researchers looking into the safety and value of this type of hormone replacement therapy.
Unfortunately, researchers have yet to provide a definitive answer about testosterone and cholesterol. It’s important to understand that there may be a connection. If you decide to use testosterone therapy, make sure you consider all of the risks and benefits.
Follow your doctor’s advice about a heart-healthy lifestyle, and take any prescribed medications. This can help keep your cholesterol, blood pressure, and other manageable risk factors under control.
Assume there may be a connection between testosterone and cholesterol. Be proactive about keeping your cholesterol levels in a safe range.