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February is American Heart Month

The American Heart Association (AHA) celebrates American Heart Month every February with an extensive awareness campaign around heart disease and keeping hearts healthy. Did you know, for example, that on average, someone dies every 36 seconds in the U.S. of cardiovascular disease? Or that someone dies of a stroke in America every 3 minutes and 33 seconds?

But have you ever considered how a substance use disorder can affect heart health? Let’s start with alcohol. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that in 2019, nearly 15 million Americans over the age of 12 had Alcohol Use Disorder.

According to the AHA, drinking too much alcohol raises levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood. In combination with high LDL (bad) cholesterol levels or low LDL (good) cholesterol, triglycerides can cause fatty buildup in the artery walls, which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Drinking excessively can also lead to high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, and cardiac arrhythmia.

So, what about the effects of illegal drugs on the heart? Well, not only can drugs cause adverse cardiovascular effects, such as abnormal heart rate and heart attacks, but injectable drugs can cause veins to collapse as well as bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves. Cocaine is the most prevalent drug for U.S. Emergency Room visits (505,224 in 2011) and is often associated with chest pain and myocardial infarction. A 2012 Australian study showed that users had a 30 – 35% increase in aortic stiffening, 8mm Hg higher systolic blood pressure, and an 18% greater thickness of the heart’s left ventricle wall. These are risk factors commonly associated with heart attacks and strokes.

Other addictive drugs like amphetamines and heroin also have associated risks, including changes in heart rate and blood pressure, heart attacks, seizures, and respiratory arrest. But recovery is possible, and so is heart health. Sovegna offers full integrative holistic wellness services to treat the whole person, including therapy, medication assisted treatment, recovery-focused nutrition, spiritual discipline, and meditative movement. Call us at (385) 429-9808 to schedule an appointment today.

Visit the AHA’s Illegal Drug and Heart Disease page here for more information.

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