What effects do anabolic steroids have on the heart?
Anabolic steroids cause enlargement of the heart in humans and
test animals.(1,2) These are the same changes in heart
muscle that occur in chronic heart failure.(3) For these
reasons, when a young athlete experiences sudden death the body is
often evaluated for steroid abuse.(3) In one case report,
a 21-year-old steroid abuser collapsed and died during a
workout.(4) The autopsy revealed an enlarged heart with
areas of dead heart-muscle tissue. Medical authorities speculated
that steroid abuse caused his heart muscle cells to grow faster
than the blood vessel supply. This created an area of heart tissue
with poor blood flow, leading to death of the new cells and a fatal
1. Creagh TM, Rubin A, Evans DJ. Hepatic tumours induced by
anabolic steroids in an athlete. J Clin Pathol 1988;41:441-3.
2. Yesalis CE, Wright JE, Bahrke MS. Epidemiological and policy
issues in the measurement of the long term health effects of
anabolic-androgenic steroids. Sports Medicine 1989
3. Ferenchick GS. Association of steroid abuse with
cardiomyopathy in athletes. American Journal Of Medicine 1991
4. Luke JL, Farb A, Virmani R, Sample RHB. Sudden cardiac death
during exercise in a weight lifter using anabolic androgenic
steroids - pathological and toxicological findings. Journal Of
Forensic Sciences 1990 Nov;35(6):1441-7.
by Trent Tschirgi, R. Ph.
(c) 1992 University of Maryland Office of Substance Abuse Studies.
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