According to the studies presented at the European Congress of Endocrinology in Istanbul, anabolic steroids (synthetic hormones that mimic the naturally-occurring sex hormone testosterone), are used to increase muscle mass and boost athletic performance.
These performance-enhancing drugs have negative side effects, such as breast growth, hair loss, decreased testosterone levels, erectile dysfunction, and an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and liver or kidney failure in men.
In the first study, the researchers examined 64 healthy men, between the ages of 18 and 50, who did recreational strength training in Denmark.
Of these men, 28 were using anabolic steroids, 22 were former steroid users, and 14 had never used these steroids.
The researchers used a Positron Emission Tomography-Computed Tomography (PET-CT) scan with the radioactive tracer Rubidium-82 to assess how much blood flowed to their heart muscle while resting and exercising and discovered that both former and current users had poor blood flow to the heart.
The findings indicate that former steroid users are more likely to develop heart disease when compared to those who have never used them, said the study.
“Previous studies have shown that the heart function almost normalises 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 — the blood flow through the smallest vessels in the circulatory system — seems persistently impaired,” said lead author Dr Yeliz Bulut.
Moreover, Dr Bulut and colleagues conducted another study in which they collected questionnaires and blood samples from three groups of men aged 18-50 years: 89 current anabolic steroid users, 61 former steroid users, and 30 men who had never used steroids before.
The study found that former anabolic steroid users report a worse quality of life on their physical and mental health, such as fatigue, social functioning and emotional well-being, despite stopping years earlier.
“Our study adds to the growing body of literature that an impaired quality of life in previous anabolic steroid users seems to persist years following cessation and could be caused by both withdrawal and/or hypogonadal symptoms due to a sudden drop in testosterone levels in the blood,” said Dr Bulut.