Frailty in elderly men increases their risk for falls and hip fractures – and significantly reduces their quality of life. Frailty comes from the general decline in muscle mass that comes with aging, especially in older men who aren’t active. One treatment doctors have proposed for treating frail elderly men is testosterone supplementation. Is taking testosterone supplements a good way to treat frailty in the elderly?
Why Testosterone Supplementation?
Testosterone is an anabolic hormone that increases muscle and bone mass. Men experience a gradual loss of muscle mass as they age – a loss that mirrors their decline in testosterone levels. This gradual decline in testosterone begins when a man in his thirties and by the time he reaches his senior years, his testosterone level has dropped by almost half.
So why is testosterone supplementation a possible solution? The thought is that testosterone supplements will boost muscle and bone mass in elderly men, reducing frailty along with their tendency to fall. Testosterone also boosts energy levels, libido, and mental acuity.
Does Testosterone Supplementation Help Frailty in Elderly Men?
There’s good news and bad news when it comes to testosterone supplementation for treating frailty in the elderly. When researchers gave 274 frail elderly men who had low testosterone levels a testosterone gel supplement, they had a measurable increase in muscle strength and mass. The bad news? When they reassessed these men six months later, their muscle strength and lean body mass had returned to baseline. Testosterone supplements helped these men at first, but the improvements didn’t last for more than six months.
Testosterone Supplements for Frailty in the Elderly: The Take Home Message?
Testosterone supplementation may not help frail elderly men recover muscle strength and mass in the long-term. In addition, testosterone therapy increases the risk of heart disease and prostate cancer. The best option for preventing frailty and loss of muscle mass with aging is regular resistance exercise and balance. Strength training exercise builds and preserves lean body mass, increases bone density, and boosts energy levels in older men. Balance training helps to reduce the risk of falls. In addition, many elderly people don’t get enough protein, which contributes to muscle wasting and loss of strength – so some dietary adjustments may be needed.
The bottom line? Placing more focus on resistance training and diet is the safest way to ward off frailty in elderly men. Testosterone supplementation doesn’t seem to the answer.
Eurekalert.org. “Beneficial effects of testosterone for frailty in older men are short-lived”
Medscape.com. “Frailty in Elderly Can Be Proactively Managed: An Expert Interview With Renee Roberts, MSN, RN, NP-C”