American Heart Month: Learn How Substance Abuse Can Affect the Heart

American Heart Month: Learn How Substance Abuse Can Affect the Heart

February is American Heart Month, a time to encourage Americans to take responsibility for their heart health. About 80 percent of cardiovascular disease cases are preventable, though it remains the number one killer and most expensive disease, costing nearly $1 billion a day. By learning about heart disease, you can protect your health and set a good example for your children and grandchildren.

The most common causes of heart disease are high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, smoking, diabetes and stress. However, one cause that doesn’t get enough attention is drug and alcohol use. Drug abuse and the excessive use of alcohol are serious risk factors for heart disease. Even after you’ve recovered from addiction, it’s still possible to have long-lasting heart problems. 

Let’s learn more about how addiction affects the heart, which drugs are most troublesome and how holistic drug or alcohol rehab in Phoenix can help. 

How Does Substance Abuse Affect the Heart? 

Research shows that most illicit drugs have an adverse effect on the heart. Prolonged use of drugs and alcohol places stress on the heart and accumulates plaque in the arteries. Not to mention, most addicts don’t lead a heart-healthy lifestyle. They tend to sleep sporadically, eat fattening foods and exercise seldomly. 

Here are some of the complications that can occur when damage is done to the cardiovascular system: 

  • Hypertension. Drugs like cocaine and amphetamines raise blood pressure by narrowing the arteries that supply blood to your heart. Hypertension increases the risk for heart disease. 
  • Arrhythmia. An arrhythmia refers to an irregular heartbeat that can be serious or fatal.  It’s most commonly caused by stimulants like cocaine. 
  • Congestive heart failure. This condition happens when the arteries are narrowed, making it difficult to pump blood to the heart. Cocaine and crack are two drugs that constrict the heart’s blood vessels, forcing it to work harder and faster. 
  • Coronary thrombosis. This refers to a blood clot in the heart that can lead to a heart attack. 

Which Illicit Drugs are Most Likely to Cause Heart Problems? 

While most illicit drugs can cause some type of heart damage, cocaine is considered the “perfect heart attack drug.” Recreational cocaine use leads to high blood pressure, stiffer arteries and thicker heart muscle walls – all risk factors for heart attack. Cocaine is also the drug most commonly associated with chest pain and myocardial infarction, landing people in the emergency room. 

MDMA, or ecstasy, is another drug that contributes to heart problems. It’s a stimulant with hallucinogenic effects that can lead to increased heart rate and blood pressure. Plus, people who take ecstasy tend to dance all night long and use other drugs, which significantly increases the risk for heart problems. 

Heroin can also wreak havoc on the cardiovascular system. Since heroin is an unregulated street drug, it can include additives that do not dissolve in the user’s body. This means that they stick around and clog the blood vessels that lead to organs like the lungs, kidneys or heart. 

healthy heart

Substance Abuse Treatment in Phoenix: Helping Prevent Damage to Your Heart 

Addiction recovery is usually more challenging than people realize. Addicts often believe they can quit at any time, so they’re caught off guard when they see this isn’t the case. The good news is that an alcohol or drug rehab in Phoenix can offer the support, encouragement and structure needed to fight addiction. 

When you choose a holistic treatment program like Continuum Recovery Center, you can work on your recovery while also developing healthy habits that support your overall health. If you’re worried about damage to your organs, holistic outpatient alcohol treatment in Phoenix will teach you how to take care of your body and restore your health. 

Some of the therapies offered at Continuum Recovery Center are: 

  • Nutritional information and coaching
  • B-12 shots and organic vitamin supplements 
  • Yoga, meditation and breathing techniques 
  • Acupuncture 
  • Mindfulness
  • Music and art therapy 
  • Fitness coaching 

Can Heart Damage from Substance Abuse be Reversed? 

The body can repair itself following an addiction. There are a number of factors that affect how your body will heal, including the drugs you took, how long you abused them for and the progress you’re making in recovery. But it’s important to know that the body is always working to repair itself and return to a state of normalcy. 

Some scans show that it can take at least 18 months for the brain to fully heal after using MDMA, though the healing process begins around two weeks from the time the drug was last used. Cocaine, on the other hand, is a serious drug that you may not heal from completely. Just one hit can cause long-term damage. 

Thankfully, stopping drug abuse can stop and prevent heart-related damage. Here are some of the best ways to start working in this direction: 

  • Eat a healthy diet. Most heart-healthy diets are good for the overall body. Focus on dark leafy green vegetables, whole grains, berries, avocados, fatty fish, dark chocolate and beans. 
  • Exercise daily. Ideally, you should exercise 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week. Some of the best heart-pumping exercises include brisk walking, cycling, playing tennis and jumping rope. 
  • Quit smoking. While you might not be ready to quit smoking during outpatient treatment in Phoenix, this is something to think about long term. Smoking significantly increases the risk for heart disease. 
  • Manage stress levels. Managing your stress levels is important for relapse, but it can also help your heart. When you’re stressed, your body’s cortisol levels rise, resulting in higher blood pressure and a faster heart rate. 

Protect Your Heart. Start Your Recovery Today. 

While there is no “right” time to start treatment, February can be a great time to make the commitment. It’s American Heart Month so people are talking and learning about how to maintain a healthy heart. By committing to a treatment program, you can stop the cycle of abuse, reverse damage to your heart and prevent further damage from occurring. Contact Continuum Recovery Center to learn more about your options for holistic treatment.