Testosterone Therapy May Combat Heart Disease in Older Women

The ETHEL study

While there is a lot of hype around testosterone therapy for postmenopausal women, there is no denying that testosterone is an important hormone for women.

By the time a woman reaches their mid-fifties testosterone blood levels are about one quarter of what they were at their peak in their twenties. Surprisingly there is increasing evidence that testosterone is protective of the heart. So, researchers are asking the question, could this decrease in testosterone be putting women at risk when it comes to their heart?

Researchers from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute and Monash University's Women's Health Research Program are leading a world first study to see if testosterone therapy can prevent the development of heart failure in postmenopausal women.

Heart failure is a condition where the heart cannot pump enough blood to match what the body needs. This condition develops silently and impacts half a million Australians.

Heart failure is most common in women with high blood pressure, who are overweight or have obesity, or diabetes. The changes that lead to heart failure occur well before there are any symptoms — the very early changes can be detected by an echocardiogram.

Our researchers will investigate whether supplementing testosterone in postmenopausal women can prevent the development of heart failure and improve exercise capacity.

We are seeking postmenopausal women in Melbourne, aged 55 years and over, who are at high risk of future heart failure (such as have high blood pressure or are overweight) to be in the study.

The study involves use of a testosterone cream (approved for use in women) for 4 months and an identical placebo cream for 4 months in random order. Heart function will be measured by exercise testing and echocardiography (heart ultrasound).

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