Elevated Hematocrit: The Hidden Danger of Anabolic Steroid Use

Many users of anabolic steroids – ranging from those using moderate doses of Testosterone for Hormone Replacement Therapy, athletes hoping to gain a competitive edge, professional bodybuilders hoping to gain muscle, and the everyday exercise enthusiast hoping to look good on the beach – are all very aware of the potential for these drugs to induce severe side effects such as Hypogonadism (reduced testicular function), Gynecomastia (breast tissue growth in males), and HyperCholesterolemia (High Cholesterol).

Several types of drugs are used to prevent some of these issues –  Nolvadex, to prevent breast growth, Statin drugs to address cholesterol issues, and the use of HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) to increase testicular production of Testosterone. These drugs still fall short of completely eliminating the risk of using excessive amounts of hormones for extended periods of time, so users attempt to limit the use, both in dosage and in cycle length, in order to avoid these short comings. Even with all of this preparation, it is absolutely crucial for anyone using steroids to consider one very important, unavoidable side effect of anabolic use, and one that is silent, only detectable during blood tests, and can cause severe physical health problems, including heart attack, stroke and even death.

picture of Anabolic steroids can lead to higher Hematocrit levels which can lead to high blood pressure and excessive thickening of the blood.

Anabolic steroids can lead to higher Hematocrit levels which can lead to high blood pressure and excessive thickening of the blood.

Anabolic steroids increase red blood cells, which leads to an increase in the amount of oxygen that can be delivered to muscle. This adds a certain athletic advantage. If left unchecked, however, Hematocrit levels (the name for the test used to determine the amount of red blood cells present in blood plasma) can reach dangerous levels, causing elevated blood pressure, and increasing blood thickness, which can lead to disruption of blood flow in major arteries and vessels, leading to heart attack and stroke.

One steroid, known as Equipoise, or Boldenone Undecylenate, has gained a particular reputation for increasing Hematocrit much more than other steroids. While this is true to a certain extent, it is clearly established that all androgenic/anabolic hormones increase RBC( red blood cell count). Even the “safer” steroids such as Anavar have a strong proclivity towards raising Hematocrit.

In order to monitor one’s health, a regular blood work panel must be done at least once every quarter year. In addition to hormone levels, cholesterol, glucose tolerance and blood pressure, one must also measure Hematocrit to ensure that levels have not reached a dangerously excessive amount. In adult males, a normal range for Hematocrit will be between 42% to 54%. Anything above 54% is an indicator of potential cardiovascular and circulation damage. In women, although anabolic steroids will always be ill-advised for this part of the human population, the numbers are even lower – 38% to 46%.

So what steps should a user take when they discover they have high hematocrit? First and foremost you should be working closely with your doctor to monitor these numbers and he or she will have your next step planned should you find these numbers climbing above the safe range. For those users who still continue to neglect to work with a physician while monitoring their hormones, it is essential to stop the use of the hormones immediately. If one is permanently on hormones, as in the case of HRT, it may be necessary to lower the dosage to no more than 100mg per week of a long estered hormone such as Testosterone Cypionate. If Hematocrit is reaching above 59%, it will be necessary to undergo phlebotomy treatments, where excess blood is drained, which allows Hematocrit levels to return to normal. When levels reach unsafe numbers, most blood donation centers will refuse to allow users to donate. Whatever the case may be, high Hematocrit levels are an issue that must be addressed as soon as possible, by eliminating the offending agent, and finding a way to quickly reduce blood volume.

A few very important things to keep in mind while maintaining a healthy Hematocrit level. Maintaining hydration is essential. A dehydrated athlete will quickly increase the thickness of the blood, and the percentage will go up considerably. Always maintain proper hydration. If you exercise frequently, make sure you consume even more water than is normally recommended for average individuals. Naringin, a component of grapefruit, has been shown in studies to reduce excessive hematocrit, while at the same time having no effect on those with healthy Hematocrit levels. The only drawback to this option is that Naringin inhibits a class of enzymes in the liver known as CYP450. This can cause very high levels of certain medications that are normally broken down in the liver by this enzyme. While the idea might seem appealing, to increase levels of a hormone or fat burning drug, for instance, the truth is there are great consequences to inhibiting this enzyme and can cause physical harm. Of course, the last and final way to ensure you are maintaining proper Hematocrit levels is to abstain from using anabolic steroids. If, however, you decide to use these substances please understand that the greatest risk comes in higher dosages, used for extended periods of time. Many modern users of anabolic steroids have come to believe they are exempt from risk factors to their health by continuing to use high doses of androgens without any intended break at any point. They falsely assume that they have all of their bases covered by utilizing ancillary drugs to control other side effects. Unfortunately this is not the case, and certainly one of the biggest concerns to your health is elevated Hematocrit.

 

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