Cardiovascular phenotype of long-term anabolic-androgenic steroid abusers compared with strength-trained athletes

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2022 Aug;32(8):1170-1181. doi: 10.1111/sms.14172. Epub 2022 May 4.


Introduction: Abuse of anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) has been linked to a variety of different cardiovascular (CV) side effects, but still the clinical effects of AAS abuse on CV risk are not clear. The aim of this study was to assess the CV phenotype of a large cohort of men with long-term AAS use compared with strength-trained athletes without AAS use.

Methods: Fifty one strength-trained men with ≥3 years of AAS use was compared with twenty one strength-trained competing athletes. We verified substance abuse and non-abuse by blood and urine analyses. The participants underwent comprehensive CV evaluation including laboratory analyses, 12-lead ECG with measurement of QT dispersion, exercise ECG, 24 h ECG with analyses of heart rate variability, signal averaged ECG, basic transthoracic echocardiography, and coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA).

Results: Hemoglobin levels and hematocrit were higher among the AAS users compared with non-users (16.8 vs. 15.0 g/dl, and 0.50% vs. 0.44%, respectively, both p < 0.01) and HDL cholesterol significantly lower (0.69 vs. 1.25 mmol/L, p < 0.01). Maximal exercise capacity was 270 and 280 W in the AAS and the non-user group, respectively (p = 0.04). Echocardiography showed thicker intraventricular septum and left ventricular (LV) posterior wall among AAS users (p < 0.01 for both), while LV ejection fraction was lower (50 vs. 54%, p = 0.02). Seven AAS users (17%) had evidence of coronary artery disease on CCTA. There were no differences in ECG measures between the groups.

Conclusions: A divergent CV phenotype dominated by increased CV risk, accelerated coronary artery disease, and concentric myocardial hypertrophy was revealed among the AAS users.

Keywords: anabolic-androgenic steroids; cardiovascular phenotype; coronary artery disease; myocardial remodeling.

MeSH terms

  • Anabolic Agents* / adverse effects
  • Athletes
  • Coronary Artery Disease*
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Steroids / adverse effects
  • Substance-Related Disorders*
  • Testosterone Congeners / adverse effects


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Steroids
  • Testosterone Congeners