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. (Here’s how to tell if someone’s on steroids.)
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.
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.
Bottom line: The side effects of steroids can be serious, and they can persist years after you stop taking them.