Professional and amateur athletes, as well as people who just want to lose weight and add muscle mass, often resort to the illicit "solution" of using anabolic steroids.
Using anabolic steroids can cause all sorts of medical and cosmetic problems, such as impotence and breast growth in men, facial hair and breast shrinkage in women, and acne, liver damage, weakened tendons, heart attacks, strokes, psychiatric disorders (and the invalidation of athletic achievements) in both sexes.
And now, investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital have found that the long-term use of anabolic steroids weakens the heart muscle - to a significant degree - in a majority of the people who use them.
The researchers studied 19 apparently healthy weightlifters - 12 who used anabolic steroids chronically, and seven who did not. (This proportion may reflect the relative difficulty in finding serious weightlifters who do not use steroids.) They found that 10 of the 12 steroid users had left ventricular ejection fractions which were actually below the limits of normal, and in addition displayed other significantly abnormal findings on echocardiography that indicated cardiac muscle weakness. These finding were not seen in the non-steroid-users.
While this is important information, and therefore I feel obligated to report it in the hope that young athletes who may read this site will be discouraged from using these dangerous drugs, one must be realistic.† If the prospect of impotence and big breasts does not scare young men away from anabolic steroids, it would be wishful thinking to expect the additional prospect of mere heart failure to tip the balance.
Baggish AL, Weiner RB, Kanayama G, et al. Long term anabolic-androgenic steroid use is associated with left ventricular dysfunction. Circ Heart Fail 2010.