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Sports Med. 2012 Feb 1;42(2):119-34. doi: 10.2165/11598060-000000000-00000.

Anabolic steroids and cardiovascular risk.

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1
Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK. P.Angell@2004.ljmu.ac.uk

Abstract

Recent reports from needle exchange programmes and other public health initiatives have suggested growing use of anabolic steroids (AS) in the UK and other countries. Data indicate that AS use is not confined to body-builders or high-level sportsmen. Use has spread to professionals working in emergency services, casual fitness enthusiasts and subelite sportsmen and women. Although the precise health consequences of AS use is largely undefined, AS use represents a growing public health concern. Data regarding the consequences of AS use on cardiovascular health are limited to case studies and a modest number of small cohort studies. Numerous case studies have linked AS use with a variety of cardiovascular disease (CVD) events or endpoints, including myocardial infarction, stroke and death. Large-scale epidemiological studies to support these links are absent. Consequently, the impact of AS use upon known CVD risk factors has been studied in relatively small, case-series studies. Data relating AS use to elevated blood pressure, altered lipid profiles and ECG abnormalities have been reported, but are often limited in scope, and other studies have often produced equivocal outcomes. The use of AS has been linked to the appearance of concentric left ventricular hypertrophy as well as endothelial dysfunction but the data again remains controversial. The mechanisms responsible for the negative effect of AS on cardiovascular health are poorly understood, especially in humans. Possibilities include direct effects on myocytes and endothelial cells, reduced intracellular Ca2+ levels, increased release of apoptogenic factors, as well as increased collagen crosslinks between myocytes. New data relating AS use to cardiovascular health risks are emerging, as novel technologies are developed (especially in non-invasive imaging) that can assess physiological structure and function. Continued efforts to fully document the cardiovascular health consequences of AS use is important to provide a clear, accurate, public health message to the many groups now using AS for performance and image enhancement.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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