Heart Beat: Steroids and the heart

Published: August, 2010

The use of anabolic steroids isn't limited to Tour de France cyclists and record-breaking home run hitters. More than one million American men and women have used these drugs to gain muscle and lose body fat. Most steroid users are vaguely aware of possible side effects like acne, but few know these drugs can harm the left ventricle, the heart's main pumping chamber.

A team from Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital ran a series of cardiovascular tests on a dozen male recreational weightlifters who used steroids and seven who didn't. Steroid users performed significantly worse on tests of heart function, including left ventricular ejection fraction, a measure of the heart's pumping efficiency. Ten of the steroid users had ejection fractions under 55%, the generally accepted lower limit of normal (Circulation Heart Failure, published online, April 27, 2010).

To continue reading this article, you must log in.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise

New subscriptions to Harvard Health Online are temporarily unavailable. Click the button below to learn about our other subscription offers.

Learn More »