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Heart Damage and Long-Term Steroid Use

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 12:55 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Steroids, Testosterone, Weight Lifting, Harvard, Baggish

Weight lifters who take steroids to build mass are damaging their hearts this research finds.

Impair Heart's Ability To Pump

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IMAGE SOURCE: Los Angeles Times Web site

A published report shows that the long-term use of anabolic steroids can damage the heart more than previously believed.

Research published in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure and conducted by Dr. Aaron Baggish of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, finds steroids can severely impair the heart's ability to pump blood throughout the body.

Researchers recruited a dozen male weight lifters, with an average age of 40, who reportedly took about 675 milligrams of steroids to increase performance every week. They had taken the drugs for nine years. They were compared to a similar group of weight lifters who had not taken drugs.

The researchers used echocardiography to measure the blood movement in the heart with each contraction.

In healthy individuals, the ejection fraction - blood in the left ventricle forced out with a contraction - is about 55 to 70 percent, but in the steroid-taking group, the average ejection fraction was about 50 percent for steroid-takers to 59 percent for weight lifters who did not take drugs.

Low ejection fractions are associated with heart failure, reports the Los Angeles Times.

This study focused on recreational athletes, not professional one, and is the first time such results have been found. Researchers believe that's because professional athletes may have a healthier makeup than casual athletes.

Steroids such as testosterone are used by weight lifters to build muscle. Besides impairing their heart’s ability to pump blood, steroids have been associated with liver tumors, high blood pressure, shrinkage of testicles, jaundice, reduced sperm count, development of breasts, irritability and impaired judgment.

"What we hope is that people start recognizing steroid use as a potential cause of heart disease and a cause of otherwise unexplained heart dysfunction in young people," Baggish said in a statement. #


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