Men's Health

Testosterone therapy may be safe for men at risk for heart attack and stroke

In the journals

By , Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch


Does testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) raise men's risk for heart attacks or stroke? A new study suggests not, although with some caveats. Researchers enrolled 5,246 men ages 45 to 80 with testosterone levels of less than 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). (Normal levels range from 300 to 1,000 ng/dL.) More than 50% had existing cardiovascular disease, while the others were considered at increased risk because of such factors as diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, and an imbalance of lipids (total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein, high-density lipoprotein, and triglycerides).

For an average of 22 months, the men applied a gel to their skin daily. For half of the men, the gel was a placebo (inactive). For the others, it contained enough testosterone to maintain their hormone levels between 350 and 750 ng/dL. At the three-year follow-up, the researchers found no difference in the rate of heart attacks, strokes, or death from cardiovascular problems between the TRT and placebo groups. However, compared with the men using the placebo, those using TRT were more likely to have developed atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart rate that can increase the risk for stroke and heart failure) and pulmonary embolism (in which a blood clot travels to a lung artery and blocks blood flow).

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».

About the Author

photo of Matthew Solan

Matthew Solan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

Matthew Solan is the executive editor of Harvard Men’s Health Watch. He previously served as executive editor for UCLA Health’s Healthy Years and as a contributor to Duke Medicine’s Health News and Weill Cornell Medical College’s … See Full Bio
View all posts by Matthew Solan

About the Reviewer

photo of Howard E. LeWine, MD

Howard E. LeWine, MD, Chief Medical Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Dr. Howard LeWine is a practicing internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Chief Medical Editor at Harvard Health Publishing, and editor in chief of Harvard Men’s Health Watch. See Full Bio
View all posts by Howard E. LeWine, MD


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

You might also be interested in…

Stroke: Strategies to prevent, treat, and recover from a "brain attack"

Protect your brain: That’s the strategy that Harvard doctors recommend in this report on preventing and treating stroke. Whether you’ve already had a mini-stroke or a major stroke, or have been warned that your high blood pressure might cause a future stroke, Stroke: Strategies to prevent, treat, and recover from a "brain attack" provides help and advice.

Read More

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Sign Up
Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.