by Ed Barillas, Staff Writer
As it is commonly reported in the media that steroids can cause your heart to blow a ventricle, kidneys to implode, and your liver to disintegrate. But is this actually true? Well in reality, the more you learn about steroids, the more you come to realize that, like all drugs, there is a difference between their intelligent use and outright abuse. So we will take a look at the effects of testosterone on the heart and see how these common conceptions hold up.
For ages now, we’ve all heard the repeated saying that anabolic steroids are bad for the heart. Some physicians will tell you that testosterone raises your risk of heart disease by lowering your good cholesterol and raising your bad cholesterol. It is also reported that steroids are known to induce an enlargement of the heart or even cardiac hypertrophy.
In reality, the dangers of steroids are overstated and may even be good for the heart.
What are the cardiovascular effects of steroids?
In a recent test, bodybuilders had various aspects of the heart measured such as the carotid intima-media thickness, arterial reactivity, left ventricular dimensions to name a few. These measurements indicate whether bodybuilding, steroid usage, or both affect the shape, function, activity and size of the heart.
The doctors found some obvious and not so obvious results. The bodybuilders who used steroids were physically stronger than those who didn’t and the use of steroids was not found to cause any significant changes or abnormalities of arterial structure or function.
In essence, when both groups of bodybuilders were compared with sedentary controls, any changes in heart function were common to both steroid-using and non-steroid-using bodybuilders. So all said and done, what we learn from this study is that bodybuilding itself can alter, not impair, arterial structure or function and steroids do not appear to impair cardiac function.
The Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRFIT) is a study that examined changes in testosterone over a 13 year period in 66 men aged 41 to 61 years. The researchers concluded that changes in total testosterone are related to cardiovascular disease risk factors.
The average testosterone levels at the beginning of the study were 751 ng/dl and decreased by 41 ng/dl. Also, men who smoked or exhibited Type A behavior were found to have even greater decreases in T levels. The change in testosterone was also associated with a decrease in in the good cholesterol and an increase in triglyceride levels.
The conclusion stated that decreases in testosterone levels as observed in men over time are associated with unfavorable heart disease risk.
In a similar study, researchers in Poland examined if testosterone replacement therapy in aging men positively affected heart disease risk factors. It noted that twenty-two men with low T levels received 200 mg of testosterone enanthate every other week for one year. Throughout this treatment, total cholesterol, testosterone, estradiol, LDL and HDL were measured. The researchers concluded that T replacement returned both testosterone and estradiol levels back to normal and normal levels. They also found that T replacement lowered cholesterol and LDL, which is the bad cholesterol without altering HDL, which is the good cholesterol and there was no change in prostate size or function.
This study proved that T replacement doesn’t appear to raise heart disease risk – and it may actually lower your risk. There are many physicians out there today that should be prescribing low dose testosterone to middle age and aging men for muscle tone, both libido and for cardiac reasons.
It’s been long shown and proved that men have a higher risk of heart disease. One of the risk factors implicated is testosterone. The recreational use of testosterone can alter lipoprotein levels and in many cases reports exist that describe bodybuilders who’ve abused steroids and have experienced heart disease or even sudden death. But one can still ask, is the causal association one of truth or just an association? Well, researchers at the University of North Texas recruited twelve competitive bodybuilders for a comprehensive evaluation of the cardiovascular effects of steroids. Six heavyweight steroid-using bodybuilders were compared with six heavyweight drug-free bodybuilders.
And sure enough the heavy steroid users had lower total cholesterol and HDL levels as compared to the drug-free athletes. What was unexpected was that the steroid users also had significantly lower LDL and triglyceride levels as compared to the non-steroid users. In addition, the juicers also had lower Apo-lipoprotein B levels, which is a marker for heart disease risk. Thus, the authors concluded that androgens do not appear to raise the risk of cardiovascular disease. Thus the conclusion of this study is that the negative cardiac side effects of steroids are most likely overstated.
We know that as we age, circulating testosterone levels naturally decrease. For most men, the testosterone decrease goes from high normal to mid to low normal. There is also data that shows that there’s an inverse relationship between T levels and blood pressure as well as abdominal.
Testosterone replacement lowers abdominal obesity and restores testosterone levels back to normal. Positive side effects of restored testosterone is correlated with stronger sex drive, better mood, lower cardiovascular, disease risks, better muscle tone, stronger bones and improved memory. It should also be noted that while conservative use gives a pronounced positive health benefit, higher doses might not necessarily lead to further health benefits.