Study: Exercise better than testosterone therapy when it comes to boosting men’s artery health

A new study by The University of Western Australia (UWA), which examined the effect of exercise training and testosterone treatment on artery function in men aged between 50 and 70 with low-to-medium testosterone levels, has found that a 12-week exercise program improved artery health and function, whereas testosterone treatment alone provided no benefits.

Published in the American Heart Association journal, Hypertension, the study included 78 men who had no history of cardiovascular disease (CVD) but a waist measurement of 95 centimetres or more, which is above the recommended level for good health.

It’s known that as men age their testosterone and exercise levels decreasing, while their risk of developing CVD increases. Although previous studies have reportedly found that testosterone therapy can help build muscle mass and strength in men, up until now it has not been made clear if testosterone improves artery and function.

As such this latest study is relevant as it provides evidence that exercise training is more effective than testosterone therapy for improving vascular function – a determinant of future cardiovascular risk, according to study author, Daniel Green, a Winthrop Professor at UWA.

Other study key findings included:

  • Artery function improved by 28% in the group who did exercise training without testosterone.
  • Artery function improved by 19% in the group who received a combination of testosterone and exercise.
  • There was no improvement in artery function in the group that received testosterone therapy without exercise training.
  • Exercise was more effective in reducing body fat and developing lean body mass than testosterone.

“In the absence of any new clinical indications, testosterone sales have increased 12-fold globally, from $150 million in 2000 to $1.8 billion in 2011,” says Professor Green.

“This occurred despite ongoing controversy regarding testosterone supplementation and cardiovascular risk.”

According to Endocrinologist and Professor at UWA’s Medical School, Bu Yeap, this concerning increase in testosterone sales is attributed to an “unproven belief that testosterone therapy is rejuvenating and might have anti-ageing effects”, and he advises health professionals to “apply caution when prescribing testosterone if the aim is to improve artery function and health”.

Adding to the commentary about this latest study, the Heart Foundation’s Director of Active Living, Adjunct Professor Trevor Shilton says: “We know that being active helps to delay, prevent and manage many chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer.

“It can help prevent and reverse weight gain, high blood pressure and cholesterol – all of which contribute to heart disease and stroke.

“Adults are advised to aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of intense physical activity each week – or a combination of the two – and add strength training at least twice a week.”

According to Adjunct Professor Shilton this latest study lays the “foundation for larger studies in this area”.

For more information and to read the study, visit: ahajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.120.16411

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