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How Does Substance Abuse Affect Heart Health?

How Important Is The Heart For The Body?

The heart is one of the most central and important organs of the body. So, of course, alcohol and substance abuse affect the heart, too. Your heart health can influence the way your mind and body function.

When these certain neurological and biochemical changes take place in a person’s body as a result of being exposed to prolonged alcohol and substance abuse, it results in chronic disease. One of these chronic diseases is cardiovascular, or heart, disease.

The impact that severe addiction has on a person’s longevity and overall health is significant. To start, it’s worth looking closely at the effects of substances and alcohol, and how these substances affect your heart health.

Your Heart And Cardiovascular Disease

A healthy and properly functioning heart is essential to your well-being. After all, your heart is responsible for carrying oxygen and nutrients to your brain and other vital organs. Without a consistent supply of oxygen, your vital organs shut down quickly. And without proper nutrients, these organs can become damaged permanently.

In short, heart disease is a dysfunction or damage to the tissues of the heart. This can also apply to the heart’s blood vessels due to a lower capacity of oxygen being processed in the body.

As many people know, heart disease (caused by cardiovascular damage) is the second greatest cause of death in the United States. Heart damage, and cardiovascular disease as a result, can be caused by a number of things including:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Substance abuse
  • Unhealthy diet and malnutrition
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack or poor quality of sleep
  • Excessive stress

While it’s true that your heart health can be affected by many things, including genetic factors, alcohol and substance abuse amplify these factors. By far, prolonged addiction to harmful substances has a detrimental effect on your heart health.

Particularly Dangerous Substances For The Heart

While all alcohol and substance abuse addictions negatively affect your cardiovascular health, some substances are worse than others. For example, the American Heart Association calls cocaine “the perfect heart-attack drug.” A recent study showed that cocaine contributes to heart disease from a number of angles, including aortic stiffening, high blood pressure, and increased thickness in ventricle walls.

Other substances like alcohol and opioids, which may not be as damaging in the short term, can be just as harmful as cocaine when abused over a longer period.

The Tricky Part About Alcohol Consumption

“Live in moderation” is a common life recommendation but it’s easier said than done. Alcohol, for example, has a very fine line of health benefits and health detriments. According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology light to moderate alcohol use can have positive effects on heart health. On the other hand, as consumption increases, what were beneficial factors become harmful ones.

For those recovering from addiction, it’s essential to acknowledge these facts while also staying firm on the boundaries of your healing journey. When a person is prone to addiction, the cardio-protective elements of light alcohol consumption just aren’t worth it—there are other ways to improve your heart health that don’t risk you falling into relapse.

Heart Diseases Linked to Alcohol and Drug Use

There are a number of specific cardiovascular diseases that are directly linked to substance abuse. When you introduce toxic substances to the body, such as excessive alcohol and harmful drugs, you make your body susceptible to heart damage. These eventually cause cardiovascular disease. The most common cardiovascular conditions brought on from substance abuse include:

  • Arrhythmias: These are irregularities in heartbeat, or the rate at which the blood is circulated around the body. Arrhythmias are linked to causing sudden heart attacks.
  • Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction): In brief, a heart attack is an impairment of blood flow to the heart. Lack of blood flow can cause extensive damage to cardiac muscles due to the lack of oxygen. A person having a heart attack might feel tightness in their chest, lose consciousness, or even death.
  • Brain Hemorrhages: These describe disruptions of blood vessels in the skull, in some cases resulting in bleeding around and within the brain. Most hemorrhages are a result of high blood pressure and poor cardiovascular health. Both of these can affect the cognitive and sensory functions of the brain.
  • Hypertension (High Blood Pressure): The condition known as hypertension requires the heart to work harder in order to continue sufficient blood circulation in the body. Hypertension affects over a third of adults over the age of 20. And, if left untreated, may result in life-threatening conditions such as brain hemorrhages. Of course, overall bad cardiovascular health should be enough of a motivation to address hypertension early.
  • Hypotension (Low Blood Pressure): On the other end of the spectrum, the condition known as hypotension can cause rapid and shallow breathing which results in a weak pulse. Opioid users, for instance, are especially vulnerable to this condition. As a result, it can further complicate their heart health by suffering a sudden heart attack.

Getting Help When You Need It

Overall, alcohol and substance abuse are serious risk factors for cardiovascular disease. And since the heart is such a central part of the body, any damage done to it can result in life-threatening conditions. Don’t wait to contact your doctor if you think you’re experiencing any of these disease symptoms. Moreover, if you’re struggling with alcohol or substance abuse, the sooner you receive help, the better. Don’t hesitate to contact Impact Recovery today by getting in touch with a member of our team here.