Fellow boomer dudes, I have news. All that running and iron pumping you’ve been doing to keep your heart fit can actually be bad for you. And what little good it might be doing is likely being undone by those testosterone supplements you’re taking.
How fair is this? You have a little trouble buttoning your favorite pants, or you get out of the shower and see Wilford Brimley staring out at you from the steam-fogged mirror, or a friend asks you abut your due date, so you decide it’s time to get some exercise. Next thing you know, you’re lying on the pavement clutching your chest and gasping like a beached carp.
Long story short: Exercise is not always a great idea.
And why not, you might ask. Well, let’s ask Dr. Glyn Thomas, a cardiologist at the Bristol Heart Institute. By the way, Bristol is in England – the country that gave the world warm beer, Yorkshire pudding and Wham!
According to Thomas, as we age, our hearts get less efficient at pumping blood to our various body parts (more about specific body parts when we start talking about testosterone replacement) and that’s a bad thing. “The arteries start to fur up and narrow as part of the aging process,” Thomas said. OK, the doctor has apparently confused aging with puberty, so let’s move on, shall we?
Intense exercise at middle age is not just hard on our cardiovascular system, either; it’s also murder on other bits. Orthopedic surgeon Tony Kochhar used bike riding as an example. “Cycling can be a particular problem for the hips,” he said. “The body is no longer designed to deliver the way it could in our youth, so we have to adapt.”
Thank you, doctor. “No longer delivering the way it could in our youth” leads neatly to testosterone replacement therapy.
It’s no secret that as men age, our testosterone levels drop. This can lead to symptoms that include lower energy levels, diminished libido, and buying a red sports car. Accordingly, some men boost their flagging T levels with testosterone replacement therapy. And, like exercise, this is not always a good idea.
According to a Veterans Administration study that used a lot of big words like “myocardial infarction,” “ischemic stroke” and “angiography,” juicing the T levels can be bad news for guys – even guys with healthy hearts.
The VA study, led by Dr. P. Michael Ho, concluded that testosterone therapy put men at greater risk of stroke, heart attacks and just generally falling over dead – things the medical profession refers to as “adverse outcomes.” Doctors have a wicked dry sense of humor, it seems.
Earlier studies suggested that testosterone replacement therapy was fairly benign, but Ho cautioned that these studies were “small and of variable duration.” Ironic, as “small” and “of variable duration” describe the two main symptoms that lead men to seek T replacement therapy in the first place.
Some doctors are worried about testosterone replacement therapy. Dr. Steven Nissen, all butt-hurt because he wasn’t involved in the study, said that the therapy is often prompted by advertising. And the risk with that, he said, is that doctors feel compelled to treat a natural biochemical symptom — low T levels — and that treatment could trigger an even bigger problem, which is heart disease.
I find all of this to be fascinating but, in my case, largely academic. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an appointment to test drive a new Corvette. A red one.