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Groundbreaking research links steroids and heart disease

[May 16, 2023: Staff Writer, The Brighter Side of News]


Anabolic steroids, widely known for their use in boosting muscle mass and athletic performance, have been found to pose significant health risks. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)


Anabolic steroids, widely known for their use in boosting muscle mass and athletic performance, have been found to pose significant health risks both during usage and long after cessation.


Two groundbreaking studies presented at the 25th European Society of Endocrinology, held in Istanbul, shed light on the potential dangers associated with these performance-enhancing drugs. The research, supported by the esteemed Novo Nordisk Foundation, was conducted by a team of experts from the Copenhagen University Hospital Rigshospitalet, who delved into the impact of anabolic steroids on former users.


 
 

Anabolic steroids are synthetic hormones designed to mimic the effects of testosterone, a naturally-occurring sex hormone. While their use has been linked to detrimental side effects such as heart failure, depression, breast growth, hair loss, and erectile dysfunction, the long-term effects have remained relatively unexplored.


These studies aimed to bridge that knowledge gap and provide critical insights into the health risks faced by former users.


 

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In the first study, researchers meticulously examined the cardiovascular health of 64 healthy men, aged between 18 and 50, who engaged in recreational strength training in Denmark. Among the participants, 28 were current users of anabolic steroids, 22 were former users, and 14 had never utilized these substances.


To assess the blood flow to the heart muscle during rest and exercise, a Positron Emission Tomography-Computed Tomography (PET-CT) scan was employed, employing the radioactive tracer Rubidium-82. Astonishingly, both former and current steroid users exhibited poor blood flow to the heart.


 
 

The findings of this study suggest that former users of anabolic steroids are at a significantly higher risk of developing heart disease compared to those who have never dabbled in these substances.


Anabolic steroids and cardiovascular outcomes. This illustration depicts the relationship between anabolic steroid and cardiovascular disease. (CREDIT: Springer Nature)


Lead author Dr. Yeliz Bulut explained, "Previous studies have shown that heart function almost normalizes after anabolic steroids are discontinued, but our study suggests that former anabolic steroid users are at an increased risk of heart disease years after stopping, as cardiac microcirculation, which refers to blood flow through the smallest vessels in the circulatory system, seems persistently impaired." These revelations imply that the prior use of anabolic steroids could serve as a novel risk factor for cardiovascular disease.


 
 

In the second study, Dr. Bulut and her colleagues collected questionnaires and blood samples from three distinct groups of men aged 18 to 50: 89 current anabolic steroid users, 61 former users, and 30 men who had never resorted to steroid usage. The researchers examined the participants' testosterone levels and evaluated their quality of life in terms of physical and mental health.


Dr. Yeliz Bulut

Surprisingly, former steroid users reported a notably worse quality of life, experiencing symptoms such as fatigue, impaired social functioning, and diminished emotional well-being, even years after discontinuing steroid use. Moreover, this group exhibited lower testosterone levels when compared to individuals who had never engaged in steroid use.


 
 

Previous studies have elucidated that men often face withdrawal symptoms such as depression and reduced motivation immediately after ceasing steroid usage. Dr. Bulut highlighted, “Our initial findings show that previous anabolic steroid users are likely to develop heart disease and have a decreased quality of life but we need to confirm these results with larger studies and investigate how the risk changes in relation to the years of usage and/ or cessation.” Alarmingly, the reported decrease in the quality of life might even prompt former users to reinitiate steroid consumption.


Previous studies have elucidated that men often face withdrawal symptoms such as depression and reduced motivation immediately after ceasing steroid usage. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)


Admittedly, both studies included a relatively small number of anabolic steroid users, former users, and non-users. To validate and expand upon these findings, Dr. Bulut and her team are preparing to launch an extensive recruitment drive to enroll a significantly larger sample of participants in their ongoing research.


 
 

With a more diverse and comprehensive group of subjects, they hope to further investigate the long-term health risks associated with anabolic steroid abuse and provide additional insights into the relationship between duration of usage and subsequent health outcomes.



 


 


For more science and technology stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


 

Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


 
 

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