Health—it’s not just for women anymore!

March 23, 2016
Years ago, I worked for a company that produced customized magazines for HMOs and hospital systems; I edited some of them. “Women’s Health” was a popular topic requested by clients, particularly hospitals eager to highlight centers of excellence related to pregnancy/prenatal and HMOs urging breast cancer screenings, for example. Women’s health was such a priority of our clients that one of my fellow editors and I joked that an alien from another planet, judging what life was like on Earth only from those publications, would conclude that “health” was an attribute possessed only by women, that only women had health issues, (I guess you had to be there….)

It is true that healthcare publications, and individuals and organizations dedicated to educating healthcare consumers, in general have been somewhat tardy in addressing men’s health issues. But that is changing. An increased awareness of prostate cancer has been one of the drivers in the progress toward the growing interest in men’s health; another has been issues surrounding the effects of low testosterone in men. In that context, MLO is proud to present this issue’s important Continuing Education article, “Diagnosing androgen deficiency in adult men,” by Michael Samoszuk, MD. The article convincingly demonstrates that the clinical understanding of laboratory testing for low-T in men must catch up with the growing demand for testing and treatment.

News of recent studies confirms that men’s health, seen as a category of healthcare knowledge and research, is coming into its own. For one example, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and twelve other medical centers in the United States, in partnership with the National Institute on Aging, recently found that testosterone treatment improves sexual activity, walking ability, and mood in men over 65. As men age, testosterone levels decrease, but prior studies of the effects of
administering testosterone to older men had been inconclusive.

The Testosterone Trials, or TTrials, are a coordinated group of seven trials, and researchers have analyzed the results of the first three—sexual function, physical function, and vitality. They found that testosterone treatment increased the blood testosterone level in the study subjects to the mid-normal range for younger men. Testosterone also improved all aspects of sexual function. Testosterone treatment did not improve energy but did improve mood and depressive symptoms.

“The results of the TTrials show for the first time that testosterone treatment of older men who have unequivocally low testosterone levels does have some benefit,” says the principal investigator of the TTrials, Peter J. Snyder, MD. “However, decisions about testosterone treatment for these men will also depend on the results of the other four trials—cognitive function, bone, cardiovascular, and anemia—and the risks of testosterone treatment.” Stay tuned.

Another example: We often think of osteoporosis as largely a women’s problem, but men experience a loss in bone density as they age as well. Recent research from the University of Missouri-Columbia shows that men can forestall its effects by exercising in their teen and young-adult years. Work by Pamela Hinton, PhD, indicates that high-impact exercise during adolescence and young adulthood is linked to greater bone mass in middle-aged men.

Hinton analyzed data from the physical histories of 203 males aged 30 to 65 years. Participants’ sports and exercise histories varied, both in type and level of activity, and the length of time spent doing various physical activities also differed. But her research found that exercise-associated bone loading during adolescence and young adulthood benefited bone density in adulthood. Moreover, she found that high-impact activity during growth and adulthood is an important determinant for bone health later in life.

It’s an interesting finding—and more evidence that men’s health, as a subject for clinical research, is here to stay.