Impact of Anabolic Steroid Use on Heart Structure and Function in Weightlifters

SEPTEMBER 02, 2019
Patrick Campbell
weightlifterA new study presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress 2019 is shedding light on the risks of anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS) use on heart function. 



The study, which examined use of AAS in 100 male weightlifters, is providing further evidence found that AAS-using weight lifters had a thicker heart muscle and left ventricular posterior wall while also reducing its ability to function.

"Continuous, long-term use of AAS might prove to be a 'silent killer' but it is too early to tell,"  said study investigator Rang Abdullah, medical student at University of Oslo. ”There are many case-studies out there on AAS-using weightlifters who end up dead or hospitalized from a heart attack or life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. This is why prospective observational trials on this subject are so desperately needed.”

To assess the impact of illicit use of AAS on cardiovascular health, investigators conducted a study that included male weightlifters with a history of more than 1 year of cumulative AAS-use and weightlifters unexposed to AAS.

Investigators performed echocardiography in all participants and assessed left ventricular mass through 2D echocardiographic linear measurements and Cube formula. Additionally, left ventricular ejection fraction and left ventricular global longitudinal strain were assessed by speckle-tracking echocardiography.

A total of 100 male weight lifters were recruited for the study, 58 of which were previous or current AAS-users while the other 42 were unexposed weightlifters. Of the AAS-users, the mean duration of AAS-use was 10.4 years. Investigators no difference in mean age (35.5 versus 35.3, P=0.8) or BMI (31.4 versus 30.1, P=0.6) between the AAS-users and unexposed weightlifters.

Upon analyses, AAS-exposed weight lifters demonstrated thicker inter ventricular septum  (11.2 versus 9.2 mm, P<0.001), thicker left ventricular posterior wall dimension (10.1 versus 8.9 mm, P<0.001), and higher left ventricular mass index (99.7 versus 78.4 g/m2, P<0.001) than unexposed weight lifters.

 Additionally, left ventricular ejection fraction (49 versus 53%, P=0.02) and left ventricular global longitudinal strain (-15.6 versus -18.3, P<0.001) were decreased in AAS-exposed weight lifters compared to their unexposed counterparts. 


"Our study found that illicit steroid use is associated with a number of worrying effects on the heart,” Abdullah said.  “We demonstrated that AAS-using weightlifters have a thicker heart muscle and reduced ability to contract the ventricular chambers of the heart during a cardiac cycle.”

This study, “Long-term use of anabolic-androgenic steroids in male weight lifters is associated with left ventricular systolic dysfunction,
“ was presented at ESC Congress 2019.

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