Testosterone therapy may be used for a variety of medical conditions. Testosterone therapy may have side effects, such as acne or other skin problems, prostate growth, and reduced sperm production.
Testosterone may also lead to an unhealthy change in your total cholesterol. Research on testosterone and cholesterol has produced mixed results, however. HDL cholesterol is considered good for you, and LDL cholesterol is considered bad for you. Some studies suggest that testosterone can lower your HDL levels, which can contribute to higher levels of LDL cholesterol. This is because the main function of HDL cholesterol is to help your body remove excess LDL particles. Other researchers argue that there’s no definitive proof that testosterone interferes with the body’s cholesterol levels.
So what’s the connection? First, take a moment to learn about testosterone and cholesterol.
Why Testosterone Therapy?
Testosterone therapy is usually given for one of two reasons. Some men suffer from a condition known as hypogonadism. If you have hypogonadism, your body doesn’t make enough testosterone. Testosterone is important. It plays a key role in the development and maintenance of male physical traits.
Testosterone levels start to decline in men after age 30, but the decline is gradual. That decrease in testosterone is the second reason a man may be given testosterone therapy. Some men want to make up for the lost muscle mass and sex drive that results from this natural decrease in testosterone.
Cholesterol is a type of fat or lipid found in the bloodstream. We need some cholesterol for healthy cell productions. A buildup of too much LDL cholesterol, however, leads to the formation of plaques in the arteries. This is known as atherosclerosis.
When a person has atherosclerosis, the excess plaque can narrow the arteries enough to stop blood flow. When that happens in an artery of the heart called a “coronary artery” the result is a heart attack.
Testosterone and HDL
HDL cholesterol is often referred to as the good cholesterol. It takes LDL cholesterol from your bloodstream to your liver. 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, while high HDL has a protective effect.
Scientists have observed that men who take testosterone medications may have decreases in their HDL levels. Results of studies have not been consistent, however. The effect of testosterone on HDL cholesterol appears to 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.
Another study found that men who had normal HDL and LDL cholesterol levels had no significant changes after they took testosterone. Researchers in that same study found that men with chronic disease saw their HDL levels drop slightly.
There’s also some question about just how important it is to keep a high HDL level to protect yourself against heart disease.
As more and more men consider taking testosterone supplements, it’s encouraging to know that there’s a lot of research about 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 taking 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, and be proactive about keeping your cholesterol levels in a safe range.