A generation after the use of anabolic steroids became prevalent, potentially dangerous side effects of these drugs are being seen.
The drugs that allowed bodybuilders and other competitive athletes to boost their muscle mass as well as their performance are now linked to poor circulation, hardening of the arteries and other cardiac illnesses, a May 22 release from the American Heart Association said.
A study of nearly 150 male bodybuilders published in the association's journal Circulation found the steroid-enhanced power they gained came at a price. Those in the control group who took steroids had weaker heart muscles, the study said, and even those who had quit steroids showed some signs of lingering damage.
Both groups showed excess plaque buildup during CT scans of the heart and surrounding vessels.
Study co-author Dr. Aaron Baggish is associate director of cardiovascular performance at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital.
“Compared to non-users, anabolic steroid users displayed both higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure as well as a higher prevalence of levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol in their blood,” Dr. Aaron Baggish, study co-author and associate director of cardiovascular performance at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, said in the release.
Dr. Harrison Pope Jr., another member of this study’s research team, urged doctors to learn more about the link between the drug and heart disease.
“Most people relate anabolic steroids to cheating among athletes and fail to realize that there is a large population of men who have developed dependence upon these drugs, but who are not readily visible,” Pope said in the release. “The oldest members of this population are only now reaching middle age.”