During this semester we had delved into a multitude of topics in biology, but by far, the most interesting to me is how our bodies convert food into energy and the different sources from which this energy is obtained. To that point, I have found that the positive uses of anabolic steroids and the health risks that they can pose the most fascinating part of this topic. While anabolic steroids can help those whose muscles have been adversely affected by diseases like anemia, many people use steroids to gain a competitive edge in athletic competitions or muscle building for aesthetic reasons. In this paper I hope to enlighten you to the dangers of this strategy.
To fully understand steroids we must first develop a basic understanding of testosterone. Testosterone is an androgen hormone that stimulates and promotes muscle growth. It also plays a role in regulating fertility, muscle mass, fat distribution, and red blood cell production. Anabolic steroids are synthetic testosterone that can help stimulate muscle growth in those people that, for one reason or another, do not naturally produce enough of this very important hormone.
Due to anabolic steroids muscle building benefits, many athletes, particularly bodybuilders, have chosen to take large amount of it to aid in training and performance. Unfortunately, steroids have many serious drawbacks and health risks associated with them. Steroids have been proven to cause violent mood swings, depression, cancer, infertility, and breast enlargement in males (Taylor, Simon, Dickey, Hogan, & Reece 2018). Despite the risks, many athletes still believe that the benefits outweigh the risks and continue to abuse steroids at an alarming rate. As a United States Marine, I witnessed this firsthand. There are some within the ranks that have considered steroid use a necessary evil in order to stay in fighting shape.
By far the most adverse effect of recreational steroid use is left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH). In layman’s terms, LVH is the enlargement and thickening of the heart’s left ventricle. In severe cases this condition can lead to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and/or cardiac arrest. According to an article published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance a group of 15 steroids users’ left ventricle wall thickness ranged from 10-17mm. This was in comparison to a control group of 8 non-steroid users whose left ventricle wall thickness ranged from 7-11mm (Ismail, et al. 2013).
In addition to the damaging effects of being on steroids, the body suffers greatly from withdrawal after long term use. Testosterone is produced by the pituitary gland and the introduction of a synthetic cause lowered production in the necessary hormone. Producing too little of testosterone comes with a new set of problems- in addition to the permanent damage caused by the chronic long term effects of use. Loss of muscle mass, low libido, hot flashes, and brittle bones are among the results of low testosterone (Ismail, et al. 2013).
Steroid use comes with a multitude of permanent and negative effects on the body all in the name of vanity. Hard work, dedication, and steady growth seem like a considerably low penalty to pay when you consider the long term effects of steroid use. As the old adage suggests: slow and steady wins the muscle building race.