T Nation

Study: AAS Use and Reduced Heart Pumping Action


Specifically left ventricular action...


The abstract (w/ PDF link to whole article):

This is from 9 months ago, and the sample size was small, but what is to be made of this? According to the study, 50% of the AAS users reported a history of drug and alcohol abuse, versus none of the non-users.

Another thing I've wondered: would cardiovascular training help in offsetting any negative effects of AAS use? Cardio improves the heart's pumping action over time, and reduces blood pressure.

With a study outcome like this one, wouldn't we be hearing more about steroid users dropping dead? Most stories are still largely anecdotal, though.


Yousa sayin' we gonna die?

No, seriously though, that's a great study. I only had to see that it was an NPR piece and read the first line, "Anabolic steroids not only build muscle but ravage livers, increase "bad" cholesterol, hike blood pressure and shrink testicles. The effects on the heart, however, have been debatable." to know I could stop reading it right there.


Yeah, but what about the actual study? They said that the left ventricles of AAS users pumped 50% as much blood as those who didn't take steroids. It was a small sample, however. Considering the number of individuals who use steroids, I haven't heard of any epidemics of heart failure among gym rats, only anecdotal stuff.

Other studies I've found say that there isn't that much of an effect. One study which gave varying doses of T (http://jcem.endojournals.org/cgi/content/full/87/1/136#R22) found that HDL only decreased in those who took 600 mg per week, for 20 weeks, which is much longer than the average AAS cycle. Another study (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199607043350101#t=articleResults) found that there weren't many changes in users who took 600 mg of T for 10 weeks. All this contradictory info is pretty confusing.

The other thing I'm trying to figure out is this: LDL is formed when fatty acids are released from adipose tissue and metabolized in the liver, producing cholesterol. Wouldn't having a lower amount of body fat, typical of responsible AAS users, have a positive effect on cholesterol, offsetting any negative changes from using AAS?


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That is an interesting study and you bring up many interesting points. Maybe the simple fact that most AAS users are healthier than the general population offsets these effects. The thing I hate about studies is you never know what bias is present in them. For all we know, the Hootons could have influenced the funding of this study.

There is a bit of anecdotal evidence for this though. Many pro bodybuilders have been known to suffer from cardiac problems in their old age. And there're so many reports on people getting winded easier on different substances (could be a completely different mechanism and probably is; I'm not familiar with Tren's mechanism, for example). But the point is, it is there to some degree. I'd be interested to read some of the more chem/bio-educated posters' thoughts on this.


As far as aging bodybuilders are concerned, don't they take insane dosages (1-2g of T per week), plus other drugs, HGH, etc? I saw that episode of HBO's Real Sports on steroids, and they said that they have never conclusively linked steroids with long term health problems. They interviewed this 70-year old guy who'd been using them for 40 years and he had no problems. Of course, he wasn't as massive as the average bodybuilder today, but he was still extremely jacked.

Maybe vigorous cardio would offset some of the problems associated w/ AAS (low HDL, high LDL, blood pressure). I read that interview on this website with Dave Draper; he said that his doctors blamed his heart problems on his drugs/alcohol abuse, not steroids.


I think we're in the same camp here; I believe that the long-term effects of steroids are actually better for your health than worse (if you use them right, of course) but really, who knows? That's just my opinion. Stallon's getting up there in age and he openly admits using HGH, with apparently amazing results. Have you seen what he looks like? He looks better than most people thirty years younger. So I'd rule HGH out.

But yes the various blood-thickening drugs, insulin, beta-agonists, etc. could add to it as well. I know competitors using up to 5g/week of test and I'm sure they aren't setting records in bodybuilding for dosages. I don't really consider 1g to be a ridiculous amount, or even 2g when taking other compounds into account as well.

You might be right about the cardio and it must add SOME weight to the other side of the scale here. I really wish more were known about these compounds, but the sad reality is that the governments that "protect" us limit a lot of research on them, leaving us to rely on a lot of anectodal evidence and opinions.

Having said that, have you seen before-and-after blood test comparisons with AAS use? There's NO doubt that, depending on cycle length and your age, genetics, etc., AAS significantly impact your lipid profile for the worse (and I'm assuming here that that's a good indicator of circulatory health, which it may not be in this case since it's the heart itself and not the BVs being discussed). After a proper PCT though, no harm done, at least in my case. But I can see there is some merit to this study. How much? I'm not sure. Are you worried about these potential results down the road? Just curious...


I would say there is definately a more than anecdotal amount of evidence that AAS use affects the heart negatively over long periods of time. There are more than a few cases of lifters biting the bullet early and having heart problems etc. It may well be a compound specific effect but there are no studies done or likely to be done that would explore this.

I do think there's a good chance that a lot of the effect is related to performing hardcore exercise over long periods of time. Distance althetes also suffer from enlarged hearts, so it may just be the fact that AAS allow you to far exceed your natural work capacity and therefore place much more stress on the heart than you would ever be able to naturally.


IMassive guns, I agree, it would be hard to convince anyone that long term AAS use (by use I mean proper cycles, not HRT dosages which are, I believe good for you) is good for you, though my understanding is that the worst effect is on the blood pressure, which can be controlled if you keep on top of what you are doing (by blood draw's, medication and dose adjustment) Also AAS use compounded by poor diet and lack of CV work can induce serious problems over the long term (though blaming this solely on AAS is unreasonable)

I have a friend, who I have mentioned before, who is a long term heavy user with a proper 'bodybuilders physique' he was on heavy cycles for years, typically of 'one rip' (tren, masteron and prop) daily, plus GH daily and substantial oral doses. He eventually went to the doctor with serious blood pressure problems and reported that by taking blood pressure medication (he never took steps to control his blood pressure though monitored it and eventually went to the doctors when it reached dangerous levels) and ceasing use of oral steroids that he now has no measurable problems or health concerns, though he is still using the blood pressure medication. He said that amongst his bodybuilder friends their consensus is that potent oral steroids, and Tren in higher doses in certain instances, are responsible for most AAS induced health problems.

Chiropractor Dr Ken Leistner also pointed out that irrespective of AAS use and CV conditioning it is hard to argue that being over 250Lbs is healthy on the heart regardless of body fat percentage. Prisoner has always reminded the members of this board that yearly bulking and cutting is harsh on the arteries, so I 'spose seeing that AAS use often goes hand in hand with some of these considerations at least some of the time its easy to see how bodybuilding can take its toll on the heart, though the average 'down the pub after work for a few pints and 20 cigarettes a day and a take away for dinner would yield just as serious if not worse health problems and a much poorer quality of life in my opinion. I'd rather die of 'da roidz' :wink: