Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Are testosterone and cholesterol levels related?

Q. I am 70 years old, and since I started taking testosterone to boost below-normal levels of that hormone, my LDL and HDL levels have dropped. What's the cholesterol–testosterone connection?

A. Testosterone is a hormone that promotes sex drive in both sexes and sperm production in men. It also supports the growth and strength of muscle and bone. There is some scientific evidence to suggest that low testosterone levels contribute to cardiovascular disease, and there is ample evidence that as testosterone levels rise, cholesterol levels fall. So the drop in your LDL and HDL levels makes sense.

Much more research is needed before we can explain the links between testosterone, cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease. For that and other reasons, I don't recommend testosterone therapy for men as a hedge against cardiovascular disease. In men with low testosterone levels, any possible cardiovascular advantage from testosterone supplementation should be considered a fringe benefit.

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