According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is still the leading cause of death among men in the United States. One in three men can expect to develop some form of cardiovascular disease before the age of 60.

"In terms of preventing heart disease, we┬┤re talking about controlling all the risk factors," says Howard Hodis, M.D., professor of medicine and preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. "This means living a healthy lifestyle, including diet and exercise, avoiding heavy alcohol use, smoking and foods high in fat, and controlling lipid levels and blood pressure."

One area that Hodis is working on is andropause, the male version of menopause. Similar to menopause, as men age, testosterone levels drop. Many people associate testosterone with maintaining muscle mass and sexual function in men. However, it also has important effects on the brain, cholesterol levels and the heart.

"Recent studies have shown that hormone replacement therapy in men over 65 improves lipid profiles, reduces chest pain and increases exercise tolerance. These factors are essentially another protective measure against heart disease," continues Hodis. "We are working on a multi-center clinical trial to assess if replacing testosterone in elderly men will reduce atherosclerosis."

Atherosclerosis is a term for the thickening and hardening of arteries. Fatty substances such as cholesterol can build up in the inner lining of an artery, often referred to as plaque, which can greatly reduce blood flow. In some cases, plaque can break off and travel to other parts of the body, which can cause heart attacks or strokes.

"The standard of care for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels includes yearly blood tests, closely monitoring blood pressure and managing your weight," says Hodis. "Sometimes diet and exercise are not enough and medications are prescribed. Work with your doctor to map out a regimen that best suits your health needs."

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