If you thought testosterone therapy was just for boosting sexual performance or building muscle, be prepared to add another benefit to the list. Results of four small trials showed that testosterone may improve exercise ability in patients with heart failure, and that T therapy may offer other health benefits as well.
Testosterone is a hormone that is generally viewed as a male hormone, yet it is found in women as well, although in lower concentrations. Patients with heart failure often have low testosterone levels, which is associated with a reduced ability to exercise and poor clinical outcomes.
The four trials reported in Circulation: Heart Failure involved 198 patients (84% male), most (71%) of whom had ischemic heart failure. Two of the studies used transdermal patches, two used intramuscular injections of testosterone, and treatment lasted 12 to 52 weeks.
Overall, results of the randomized, placebo-controlled trials showed that patients who participated in testosterone therapy had 16% to 23% improvements in walking distance and peak oxygen consumption, along with improvements in fasting levels of glucose and insulin and in insulin sensitivity. The improvements were likely related to a variety of factors, such as enhanced cardiac output, increased muscle mass, anti-inflammatory effects, an increase in hemoglobin (which transports oxygen and thus can improve exercise), improved immunosuppressive effects, and enhancement of something called baroreceptor sensitivity, “which has the potential to improve muscle sympathetic nerve activity.”
The authors concluded that “testosterone appears to be a promising therapy to improve functional capacity in heart failure patients.”
Toma M et al. Testosterone supplementation in heart failure: a meta-analysis. Circulation: Heart Failure 2012 Apr 17