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Boosting testosterone could put health at risk

June 25, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Symptoms like low energy, weight gain and a waning sex drive can be helped with eating better, exercise and more sleep. But more men than ever before are looking for ways to treat what they think is low testosterone. They could be putting their health at risk.

Urologist Dr. Soroush Ramin says low testosterone is one of the most common complaints in his practice. A "normal" testosterone range in a healthy male is 300 to 1,200 nanograms per deciliter. A man in his 20s is usually in the 800s.

"Younger men generally tend to have higher testosterone," said Ramin.

After age 30, testosterone decreases about 1 percent each year. A decreased level of this hormone often results in men having less muscle mass, strength, feeling depressed, tired, and having a waning interest in sex. Weight gain is also a symptom.

"Men who don't lose their fat around their belly and they think they might have low testosterone, the best thing to do for those men is to come in and get a hormone panel check," said Ramin.

American men are turning to testosterone boosters in record numbers. Sales of prescription testosterone have more than doubled since 2008. And projected sales are expected to more than triple in the next five years.

But Dr. Ramin says many men seek to boost their testosterone when they don't need to.

"Long-term use of testosterone in these kinds of men, in men who have normal testosterone levels, is actually problematic because it can cause shrinkage of their testicles," said Ramin.

And increase the risk of blood clots.

Dr. Ramin recommends men get their blood levels measured first. During treatment, a man should be checked every three to six months.

"Testosterone replacement therapy can help with prevention of osteoporosis, it can help with cardiovascular disease and prevention of cardiovascular disease, and it can also increase a person's libido," said Ramin.


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