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Steroid use may increase heart failure risk

Washington: Long-term use of steroids may weaken the heart and increase the risk of heart failure, a new study says.

Anabolic-androgenic steroids mimic the naturally occurring testosterone, a muscle-building hormone that promotes male sexual characteristics.

"Anabolic steroids, in addition to being illegal, have important health consequences," said Aaron L Baggish, study author and instructor in medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

"I think for the first time we`re starting to realise that the heart is one of the organs that is negatively impacted by long-term steroid use," said Baggish.

In the small study, investigators found that the left ventricle, the heart`s main pumping chamber, was significantly weaker during contraction (systolic function) in participants who had taken steroids compared to a group of similar non-steroid users.

A healthy left ventricle pumps out 55 percent to 70 percent of the blood that fills the heart (a measurement known as ejection fraction).

Eighty-three percent of steroid users had a low pumping capacity (ejection fraction less than 55 percent) that previous studies have linked to increased risk of heart failure and sudden cardiac death.

Steroid users also exhibited impaired diastolic function, which is when the left ventricle relaxes and fills with blood.

Researchers showed that ventricle relaxation among steroid users, as demonstrated by the left ventricle`s ratio of early-to-late blood filling, was reduced by almost half (0.93 compared with 1.80 among non-users). The left ventricle`s structure was similar in both steroid-users and non-users.

Baggish and his co-investigators used a technique known as Doppler echocardiography to examine the left ventricle`s function and structure.

The test uses high-frequency sound waves, or ultrasound, to create moving pictures of the heart and its blood flow.

The steroid-using group comprised male weight lifters, average age 40, who reported taking about 675 milligrams of steroids per week for nine years.

These findings were published in Virculation: Heart Failure, an American Heart Association journal.

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