Testosterone levels present in a man’s body may not only influence the development of Alzheimer’s disease, but also his behavior when already suffering from the disease, as concluded by a recent study conducted at the University of North Texas (UNT) Health Science Center. The researchers discovered that while lower levels of the hormone increase the risk of developing the disease, higher levels increase aggressive and other acting-out behaviors and hallucinations in Alzheimer’s patients.
The levels of testosterone in the human body are more important than previously thought, and men who have lower levels are more predisposed to later suffering from Alzheimer’s. Conversely, “once someone already has Alzheimer’s, higher levels of testosterone are related to acting-out behaviors,” explained James Hall, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health. “Those behaviors, such as agitation and delusions, occur at some point in at least 70 percent of Alzheimer’s patients.”
The researchers analyzed data from 87 elderly men suffering from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, and Hall was able to demonstrate that there was a 5.5 times greater probability of these patients suffering hallucinations based on higher levels of testosterone, compared with the ones with lower levels.
One of the most important outcomes of the study is the fact that it is common to prescribe older men testosterone-replacement therapies, a practice that the researchers now question. “What we’re showing is that testosterone can have a negative impact on patients with Alzheimer’s disease,” Hall said. “It may be crucial to consider the possible unintended consequences before a patient is placed on testosterone-replacement therapy.”
However, Hall also noted that more studies are needed to detail the correlation between testosterone and acting out behaviors in Alzheimer’s patients. He expects, though, that future investigations could also improve the identification of patients at risk, as well as help in the development of early interventions and specific treatments.
The UNT Health Science Center investigational team is now dedicated to conducting further research to better understand the irreversible, incurable and fatal disease that currently strikes about five million people in the United States alone. The main purpose of the center is to find ways for improve the management and treatment of Alzheimer’s and eventually develop a cure for it.