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      Sex hormone could save your life

      By Victoria Hansen vhansen@abcnews4.com

      CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Chances are you've seen the commercials.

      "Do you have low energy?"

      "Has your belly gotten bigger?"

      "What about your sex life? Has it all but disappeared?"

      Men, you probably remember these words more vividly. The advertisements promise relief. They say you may have low testosterone, the hormone that puts hair on your chest and stokes your sex drive. They say there is a cure for what ails you. Of course, the symptoms are often the common maladies of middle age.

      "Many men focus on the benefits of increasing testosterone levels related to libido and energy," said Dr. Bright McConnell. "But in reality, correcting low testosterone can protect male patients from heart failure and stroke."

      The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death for men.

      "Low testosterone can be easily screened and treated," said McConnell. "I believe it to be probably the most significant risk factor in middle aged and older males."

      McConnell is a well-known orthopaedic surgeon who has specialized in sports medicine and human performance. In recent years, he has become immersed in age management medicine as the founder of FitMed Partners on Daniel Island.

      So how does low testosterone play a role in heart disease? {}McConnell breaks it down like this: As testosterone levels decrease, so does your good cholesterol. Replacing testosterone can cut total cholesterol numbers as well as your bad cholesterol.

      "One of the greatest consequences of low testosterone is an increase in insulin resistance, obesity and metabolic syndrome which leads to type two diabetes," said McConnell. "Approximately 80 percent of type two diabetic patients are killed by cardiovascular disease."

      So how can men increase their testosterone? There are all kinds of products from patches, to injections to creams.

      But not everyone agrees they're safe. Men with prostate problems are often advised against it. Some say more study is needed.

      McConnell believes the benefits far outweigh the risks. He prescribes bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, or hormones that are most similar to the body's natural ones.

      "Replacement therapy for men can increase their testosterone levels while decreasing their cardiovascular risk," said McConnell.

      That is good news.

      "If managed properly, it can also improve muscle mass, libido, cognitive function and energy levels," he said.

      That means men could develop better bodies, a sharper memory, more energy and a stronger sex drive -- well, that may be the bonus.

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