Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States, and low testosterone levels play a potential role. For men aged 40+, understanding how these two conditions interact is essential to maintain optimal health. Keep reading to learn more about how heart disease and low testosterone are related.
What is Testosterone?
Testosterone is a sex hormone essential for optimal health in both men and women. Testosterone helps regulate muscle mass, bone density, energy levels, sex drive, mood, cognition, and other essential bodily functions.
Testosterone levels vary between individuals and are significantly impacted by lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, and stress. Testosterone levels tend to peak during puberty and gradually decline over time, which can lead to accelerated aging and negative health consequences.
Low testosterone or “Low-T” occurs when there are less than normal levels of testosterone present in the body. Low T levels can be caused by various factors, including medications, cancer, sedentary lifestyle, trauma, obesity, stress, recreational drug use, inflammatory foods, and infections, to name a few.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone:
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Low sex drive
- Depression and mood changes
- Reduced muscle mass and muscle strength
- Hair loss
- Increased visceral body fat
- Gynecomastia (enlarged breast tissue)
- Brain fog
- Memory loss
- High cholesterol
How Does Low Testosterone Affect Cardiovascular Health?
Low-T has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease for a variety of reasons. One connection between heart disease and low T is related to its effect on cholesterol levels in the body. Cholesterol is a fatty substance in your blood essential to maintaining optimal heart health, and high cholesterol levels can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. Studies have shown that men with lower testosterone levels tend to have higher bad cholesterol levels (LDL), which can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Men with low testosterone are also twice as likely to develop insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, which can cause significant changes in their hearts’ metabolism and signaling pathways, leading to potential heart failure.
Finally, low testosterone has also been linked to increased inflammation within the body, which is a risk factor for heart disease. Studies suggest testosterone plays a crucial role in regulating systemic inflammation. Low testosterone levels can cause an increase in inflammatory cytokines associated with conditions such as diabetes mellitus, prostate cancer, and coronary artery disease. Restoring healthy levels of testosterone increases anti-inflammatory cytokines and reduces the risk of these inflammatory conditions, including heart disease.
What Can I Do About It?
In conventional medicine, normal testosterone levels are defined as somewhere between 203.4 and 1415.5n g/dL, which is quite a wide range. When a man starts experiencing symptoms, his T levels often lie far too close to the bottom of these “normal” ranges. Some conventional doctors will not see these suboptimal testosterone levels as a problem because they are technically considered to be normal. In functional medicine, we like to see levels closer to 600-1000 g/dL for most men for optimal health.
If you’re concerned about your risk of developing cardiovascular disease due to low testosterone levels, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk factors. First and foremost, it’s essential to ensure that you are eating a healthy diet, reducing your stress, and getting plenty of exercise regularly (both aerobic and resistance training). You also want to rule out and correct other causes of low testosterone to ensure nothing is being overlooked!
Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is a treatment to restore hormonal balance in men with low testosterone levels. BHRT brings positive physiological changes such as increased energy and strength, sex drive, and mental agility. Studies have indicated that men who undergo BHRT can also experience improved libido, reduced joint aches, and improved skin health. Additionally, men may notice an increase in lean muscle mass and bone density when they go through BHRT.
Testosterone is linked to a lower risk of chest pain, a decrease in the hardening of the arteries, and an improvement in exercise ability. Testosterone replacement therapy has also been shown to improve myocardial ischemia in men with Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), increase exercise capability in men with Congestive Heart Failure, and improve glucose levels, HbA1c, and insulin resistance in men with diabetes or prediabetes.
Along with the heart health benefits, other benefits may include thicker hair, increased ability to build muscle and lose fat, reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, better sleep, and an improved sense of overall well-being.
Types of BHRT
BHRT utilizes hormones identical in structure and composition to the hormones naturally produced by the body. They may be given orally or transdermally (creams, gels, patches, and pellets). Depending on the situation, your provider may prescribe just one type of hormone replacement or a combination depending on the symptoms being treated and the desired outcome.
The effectiveness of BHRT can be significantly enhanced when combined with lifestyle changes such as healthier eating habits and regular exercise. Ultimately, BHRT can safely help men manage their health concerns while reclaiming their sense of well-being.
Contraindications for Testosterone
There are many benefits to testosterone therapy; however, there are a few things you should be aware of before taking it.
Men with a history of breast or prostate cancer, uncontrolled heart conditions, or obstructive sleep apnea may not be a good fit for testosterone therapy.
Taking testosterone can also reduce sperm count, making it harder to reproduce. So if you are considering reproducing, it is important to speak with your doctor about other great options for increasing testosterone that will not negatively affect your sperm count.
A Root-Cause Approach to Hormones & Cardiovascular Health
Cardiovascular disease is a significant issue for men, with low testosterone increasing an individual’s risk of developing this condition. By understanding how the two conditions interact and taking proactive steps to maintain optimal testosterone levels, men can reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.
If you are at risk, Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy could help restore normal hormone levels while also helping protect against heart issues down the road. At GrassRoots, we combine this therapy with lifestyle and diet changes and health coaching in our Adaption Plus Program. Please take action today so you can enjoy better health tomorrow by scheduling a FREE Discovery Call with our team of functional medicine experts.