Androgen deficiency is associated with an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease. There is evidence that thromboembolic disease as well as myocardial ifarction in hypogonadic males are mediated by low baseline fibrinolytic activity.
Hypogonadism in males is associated with an enhancement of fibrinolytic inhibition via increased synthesis of the plasminogen activator inhibitor PAI 1. On the other hand, stanozolol and danazol reduce PAI 1 and are associated with increased fibrinolytic activity. However, in male abusers of anabolic steroids the net effect on the haemostatic system may change from anti- to prothrombotic; there appears to be an individual threshold dose above which thrombogenic effects on platelets and vasomotion may overcome the profibrinolytic effects on PAI 1. There are numerous reports on weight-lifters dying of atherothrombotic ischemic heart disease while abusing anabolic steroids. Androgens are known to have profound effects on carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. In fact, much of the individual inconsistency of the effects of androgens on fibrinolytic and haemostatic activity appears to be based on the close interrelationship of these metabolic systems. Androgens may have unfavourable effects on the HDL/LDL cholesterol ratio, on triglyceride levels and on the insulin/insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF 1) system. Hypertriglyceridemia as well as insulin resistance are both associated with low fibrinolytic activity and increased PAI 1 levels.
On the other hand, lipoprotein(a), a recently acknowledged independent risk factor of CVD was shown to respond favourable to androgen treatment, in men as well as in women. In women, agonistic as well as antagonistic effects of estrogens and progestins need to be taken into account. In fact, estradiol may modulate testosterone effects on haemostasis. Androgen medication in premenopausal women, such as danazol, was found to reduce PAI 1 suggesting an improvement of the fibrinolytic activity. Also, in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) androgenic progestins or complex compounds with androgenic effects are associated with a marked reduction of PAI 1 and an improvement of fibrinolytic activity. Further improvement of fibrinolytic activity may be associated with the marked decrease of lipoprotein (a) (Lp(a)) in women on androgenic HRT. However, little is known on the interrelationship of estrogens, 19-nortestosterone or progesterone derivatives and testosterone. an interrelationship that may have substantial impact on the metabolic and particularly haemostatic net effects of a preparation. In summary, information on the effects of androgens on haemostasis is limited and may be particularly incomplete due to the fact that interaction with other sex steroids appears to be an important confounder. In any case, there are numerous effects of synthetic androgens on the synthesis and release of haemostatic factors, namely an increase of the inhibitors of coagulation and a decrease of the inhibitor of the fibrinolytic system. However, the use of androgens in patients with congenital deficiencies of these coagulation factors or previous events of cardiovascular disease has yielded disappointing results. On the other hand, particularly the reduction of fibrinolytic inhibition (PAI 1) and Lp(a) were considered favourable effects of androgens with regard to the risk of cardiovascular disease. Differences between preparations with pronounced androgenic versus antiandrogenic effects and the effect of combined preparations need to be studied in much more detail. The profibrinolytic effects of androgens may be of particular interest with regard to favourable effects of HRT on cardiovascular disease.