Hormone can boost men's muscles, lower cholesterol


January 12, 1993|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,Contributing Writer

Older men who receive injections of the male hormone testosterone can increase their muscle size and lower their cholesterol levels. That's the good news from a study recently published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

All men go through a sort of menopause, although it is far more gradual than that experienced by women.

From age 50 to 70, a man's blood level of testosterone drops more than 40 percent. He becomes less assertive, loses muscle and bone mass, gains fat, doesn't want to have sex as often and finds it far more difficult to attain and maintain an erection.

In the recent study, 13 men between the ages of 57 and 76 and with low blood-levels of testosterone were given weekly injections of the hormone. Their muscles grew, and surprisingly, their levels of LDL cholesterol -- which causes heart attacks -- dropped significantly. Their bones stopped losing calcium.

To get these effects, the testosterone must be injected. When it is taken by pill, the bloodstream carries the hormone from the intestines to the liver. The testosterone causes the liver to make more of the harmful LDL cholesterol and less of the healthful HDL cholesterol.

When large amounts of testosterone are injected deep into a muscle, the extra hormone reaches the liver through the general circulation and causes the same harmful changes in cholesterol. However, the doses of testosterone administered in the study were low enough not to affect the liver adversely, yet high enough to build muscles, strengthen bones and improve sexuality.


Q: What happens in hypothermia? What are the symptoms?

A: Hypothermia is the condition in which the body cannot sustain its normal temperature, which is around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

When exposed to the cold, your body temperature will drop. If it drops too much, your heart will eventually stop beating.

Hypothermia has a consistent pattern of signs. When your body temperature drops 1 degree, you will start to shiver and your speech will become slurred.

When it drops 3 degrees, you will have trouble using your fingers and hands, so you may not be able to hold a ski pole or the handles on your bike. A drop of at least 4 degrees will affect your brain, and you won't be able to think clearly.

When your body temperature drops 5 degrees, you will begin to stumble, and that means big trouble is imminent. If you stop moving and sit down, your temperature can drop even more and you may never get up.

The treatment for hypothermia is rapid rewarming. Doctors use warm baths, heating pads and lamps or lots of blankets.

You can avoid hypothermia simply by dressing warmly. Always cover your hands, feet, head and ears when you are out in the cold. You feel the cold most in these exposed parts, and As much as 90 percent of your heat loss comes from your head, unless you wear a warm hat.

Dr. Mirkin is a practicing physician in Silver Spring specializing in sports medicine and nutrition.

United Feature Syndicate

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