Ron, age 59, was prescribed testosterone for two reasons. Androgel, the most widely prescribed treatment, was supposed to work as a painkiller - a nerve was severed during surgery - and because his t-level count was low.
“My doctor also gave me testosterone injections, which felt like 90-weight oil was being shot into my body it hurt so bad,” says Ron. “Then he put me on testosterone pills, but soon after I started taking them, I called my doctor complaining of chest pains. He told me to cut the pill in half. Well none of that helped.”
Instead, it made Ron a helluva lot worse. By the end of 2002, he had a blockage and needed a catheterization. He stopped the testosterone treatment the following year, only because it wasn’t helping with the pain from the vasectomy. “Two kids were enough and I have been paying for that as well - get a divorce before you get a vasectomy, I tell all the guys,” says Ron, laughing. “And then, like an idiot, I started taking testosterone injections.”
Joking aside, in 2005 Ron had another bout of chest pain so severe he called the ambulance. He was admitted and next morning found out that he’d suffered a heart attack. “I was transferred to another hospital and had another catheterization,” he says. “They gave me the news next morning that I needed open-heart surgery. And if that wasn’t bad enough, about a year later I had another attack.”
Amazingly, Ron still works every day. I farm 800 acres of soy beans and corn by himself. “I want to die doing something I love - and that would be farming,” he says. Ron did find time to watch an ad on TV linking testosterone to heart problems.
“‘Well there is another screw-up from doctors and the pharmaceutical industry,’ I first thought, and then I got pissed off with the Androgel manufacturer,” says Ron. “I found out that they didn’t do enough studies on humans before it went to market. Are we their guinea pigs? Now I don’t even take my heart meds because I am afraid of what it will do to me.
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New research has found an increased risk of heart attack in men younger than 65 with a history of heart disease, and in older men even if they didn’t have a history of the disease. Researcher William Finkle, CEO of Consolidated Research, in Los Angeles, said the increased risk was found in both groups and heart attack risk doubled in the 90 days after the men began testosterone therapy. The study was published online in the journal PLoS One (January 2, 2014), and the research team included experts from Consolidated Research, the U.S. National Cancer Institute, and the University of California, Los Angeles.