All athletes experience some thickening of the heart muscle tissue as a result of their years of intense training. While aerobic and anaerobic exercise are terrific for increasing blood flow to the heart, they also thicken the muscle in the walls. This causes an increased amount of tension on the walls of the heart. More and more blood is now required by the heart to function normally. This can be a recipe for disaster, and that’s just in regular athletes. The bottom line here is simple. Steroids might give you a broken heart, but if you can get through it, you will recover!
Now let’s consider the athlete who uses anabolic steroids. In addition to the regular additional workload the heart must endure, you now must factor in the effects of steroids. Elevated blood pressure can cause hypertension, increasing the risk of heart disease or stroke. Additionally, there is a great unknown among steroid users who choose to employ growth hormone and insulin in their chemical regimens. We know that both hormones cause growth of muscle tissue. Does this mean that heart tissue is growing as well? This leads to thicker walls of the heart, which places an additionally undue amount of stress upon the heart.
The good news is that studies have shown that even in long-term users of anabolic steroids, the heart enlargement does reduce, and the heart usually returns to near-normal size, once use is discontinued. However, these studies monitored the use of traditional performance enhancement drugs. The effects of insulin and particularly growth hormone, which causes an irreversible re-growth of new cells throughout the body, are still unknown. If the enlarged intestines, bones, and skin do not return to normal sizes, is it safe to assume the heart also remains enlarged.
Without the benefit of decades of study on the side effects of growth hormone upon the organs of bodybuilders, this issue will remain undecided for some years. Perhaps the lack of clinical data will be supplemented by the survival rates of today’s top bodybuilders as they retire and return to normal sizes, attempting to live normal lives. If they live to ripe old ages, then we’ll know the heart tissue growth wasn’t a major concern. If a large group of them pass away in their 40s and 50s from heart issues, the need for immediate additional study will become abundantly clear. The proof is in the pudding, and only time will tell us the long-term effects of AAS upon the cardiac function.