The Deadly Side Effect Of Steroids You Only Notice Years Later

Some consequences can persist even after you stop taking them

Christa Sgobba |

Anabolic steroids—synthetic variations of the muscle-building hormone testosterone—won’t just shrink your balls, give you zits, or grow you some breasts: They might hurt your heart, too, new research from the journal Circulation reports.

In the study, researchers recruited male weightlifters ages 34 to 54 who could currently, or in the past, bench press 120 kilograms for at least one rep. After conducting screening interviews and analysing their health histories, they were left with a group of 140 men: 86 guys who had a history of at least two years on anabolic steroids—67 percent of whom who were currently on them—and 54 who never touched the stuff.

Related: How To Tell If Someone Is Using Steroids

Roid users showed higher body mass indexes (BMI) and higher levels of fat-free mass than those who never took them, which wasn’t terribly surprising. But they also had higher blood pressure readings and levels of LDL, or bad, cholesterol in their blood, too.

And that wasn’t their only heart risk: After examining the men’s hearts using 2-D ultrasound imaging, the researchers discovered that 71 percent of those who were currently on steroids had impaired pumping power in their left ventricles. Off-drug users tended to have normal pumping capacity, and just two never-users had problems pumping.

Related: Are Steroids Illegal?

But both current and ever-users showed problems in the diastolic functions of their hearts, or when the heart relaxes and fills with blood—suggesting a more permanent health problem that persists even if you’re not currently taking steroids, the researchers say.

Plus, CT scans showed that length of steroid use was linked to greater plaque buildup in their arteries, potentially leading to earlier development of heart disease.

Up to 4 million Americans have used anabolic steroids to build muscle, the study notes—and, as evidenced by the study, most are just regular, recreational lifters, not elite or professional athletes.

Related: 10 Of The Worst Sports Cheaters Who Aren’t Australian

Bottom line: The side effects of steroids can be serious, and they can persist years after you stop taking them. So don’t put your health on the line for a quick fix.

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