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Steroids Could Harm Heart's Pumping Ability
Date:4/27/2010

Rather than enlarged hearts in weight lifters, study finds problems contracting, relaxing,,

TUESDAY, April 27 (HealthDay News) -- Long-term use of anabolic steroids weakens the heart more than had been thought, a new study of weight lifters shows.

The study provides what might be the first clear evidence that these muscle-building drugs, used widely by bodybuilders and athletes, can damage heart function, said Dr. Aaron L. Baggish, an assistant in medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, and lead author of a report on the study published online April 27 in Circulation: Heart Failure.

"There have been mixed assumptions but very little direct scientific study of what happens to the heart when it is exposed to an anabolic steroid, and none of what happens with chronic use," Baggish said.

Anabolic steroids, which mimic the muscle-building effects of the male hormone testosterone, have been used by athletes in various sports. Among professional baseball players, Mark McGwire recently acknowledged using them off and on for nearly a decade, including 1998, when he hit 73 home runs to set a new major league single-season record. New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez has acknowledged using the drugs, and allegations have linked other big-name players, including Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, with their use.

For the study, Baggish and his colleagues at Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital enlisted 19 male weight lifters, including 12 who reported taking, on average, about 675 milligrams of steroids a week for nine years and nine who said they never used steroids. The researchers used Doppler echocardiography, which uses ultrasound to generate moving pictures of the heart's size and function, to study the function of the each weight lifter's left ventricle, which is the blood-pumping chamber.

"The common myth is that steroids make the heart grow massively large," Baggish said. "We d
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