Anabolic Steroids Harms Heart Muscle over Time

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Anabolic steroid use is now found to harm the heart muscle even more than previously known. Long term anabolic steroid use could even lead to heart failure according to new findings.

Researchers compared a small group of long term anabolic steroid users to a comparable group of participants with no history of steroid use, finding decreased pumping action of the left ventricle of the heart. A weakened left ventricle can cause fluid to back up in the lungs and produce congestive heart failure and sudden cardiac death.

A measurement of the ability of the heart to eject blood into the general circulation is called an ejection fraction (EF) that is measureable with echocardiogram. Normal EF is 55 to 70 percent. In the study, anabolic steroid users were found to have ejection fractions less than 55 percent, indicating weakened pumping ability of the heart muscle.


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Other findings from the study showed that the left lower chamber (ventricle) of the heart was more relaxed among anabolic steroid users during the time the chamber fills with blood. Increased relaxation of the ventricle during filling could lead to stiffness of the heart muscle, high blood pressure and heart failure.

The average length of anabolic steroid use reported in the study and associated with heart damge was nine years. The investigation was conducted on 12 male weight lifters with an average age of 40.

Researchers say anabolic steroid use has increased in the United States since the 1990’s. Many anabolic steroid users have now reached the age where researchers can study the harm to the heart muscle that occurs over time. The researchers are planning more studies to support the findings.

American Heart Association