Although a link between anabolic steroids and cardiovascular function declines certainly does exist, researchers are not entirely sure what causes some of them. There are three main things to keep in mind regarding the effects on your heart: high blood pressure, an enlarged heart, and abnormal cholesterol levels.
High Blood Pressure
Many athletes and bodybuilders are already aware that they can have a tremendous effect on their blood pressure. This is because the vast majority can cause fluid and sodium retention in the tissues. Your body absorbs the excess fluid into your bloodstream, increasing the total blood volume. This means that your heart must work very, very hard to pump the extra blood throughout your body, and it puts extra pressure not only on your heart, but also on arterial walls. This excess “wear and tear” often leads to congestive heart failure, and it also increases your risk for kidney disease and stroke.
Because of this, it is very important for anyone who has high blood pressure or who is taking medication for hypertension to avoid using, even at very low doses. The addition of the excess stress on the heart can be dangerous, and no amount of muscle gain or performance enhancement is worth that kind of risk. If you are unsure of your blood pressure, check it several times throughout the day for a few days. The average is your overall blood pressure, and if it seems high, you should see your doctor. The link between usage and cardiovascular function is strong enough that you should never compromise your health if you have an existing condition.
There is a great debate over heart enlargement and whether it is a link between anabolic steroids and cardiovascular function. Several small-scale studies show that all athletes who participate in heavy training experience some degree of left ventricle enlargement, and a few other studies suggest that anabolic steroids increase that enlargement. However, almost all of these studies show that less than 15% of athletes and bodybuilders have symptomatic enlargement. Nonetheless, heart enlargement can cause congestive heart failure, particularly when the heart enlarges to the point that it breeches the fluid-filled sac around the muscle, rubs against the sac itself, and causes irritation.
Heart enlargement is far more common in individuals who use HGH than anabolics. HGH can cause limbs, extremities, and organs throughout the body to grow much larger than normal. If you use HGH, be sure to follow dosage guidelines carefully, and stick to the shortest possible cycle lengths that give you the benefits you desire. Should you notice any physical changes in the size of your hands or feet, or if anything seems off, you should visit your doctor.
Abnormal Cholesterol Levels
Almost all of the experts agree that abnormal cholesterol levels are the main link between use and cardiovascular function. Not only do the they raise the levels of bad cholesterol, but they also decrease the amount of good cholesterol in the body. This cholesterol then builds up along the arterial walls and may cause blockages, leading to heart attacks.
Scientists and researchers are not sure exactly why steroids have this effect on cholesterol, but the link still exists and steroid users should exercise extreme caution. To combat this, be sure to visit your doctor annually and ask him or her to check your lipid profile. This will test your HDL, LDL, and total cholesterol levels to measure your overall heart health. If anything seems abnormal, your doctor will likely recommend lifestyle changes, and you should stop using AAS due to the link between usage and cardiac function. If your cholesterol is too high, you will need to take daily medication and make changes to your diet to get things back under control.
Advanced Users & the Link between Cardiovascular Function
Many advanced steroid users are individuals who have been using for years, but who do so according to guidelines and recommendations. Even in this case, the more you use, the greater your risk for compromised cardiovascular function. The damage they may do to your heart is not always reversible, no matter how cleanly you eat or how much cardio you put in each week. They should never be long-term solutions; they should be viewed as means to break through plateaus and used at the lowest doses for the shortest cycles as infrequently as possible. There’s no surefire way to break the link between usage and cardiovascular function, so it is up to individual users to remain vigilant and responsible for their own health.
The True Risk – and what You can Do
The main risk when it comes to anabolic steroids and cardiovascular function is a combination of the aforementioned conditions. For instance, when you have high blood pressure combined with an enlarged heart, the odds of heart attack and congestive heart failure increase exponentially. If you will use for performance enhancement, regular physical examinations and laboratory bloodwork is important.
You should keep close watch over your HDL and LDL levels, and you should also monitor your blood pressure very closely. When AAS are used according to guidelines by men and women who are otherwise perfectly healthy, there are very few risks. In fact, in these people, an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle are far more dangerous, and this greatly outweighs any link between anabolic steroids and cardiovascular function. Remember, as mentioned above, that anabolic steroids are only for those who have maxed out their potential with diet and exercise and who want to break through plateaus.
If you are unhealthy, chances are good that your lifestyle isn’t healthy enough or you have a condition that cannot be rectified with diet and exercise. In both cases, AAS are not good ideas. As you can see, there are some negative effects when it comes to anabolic steroids and cardiovascular function. Many bodybuilders recommend taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements, and some even claim that they use statin drugs during and after their cycles to keep blood pressure in check. However, the best way to ward off the symptoms is to use responsibly at the right doses and for the right cycle lengths.