Heart disease, or, to give it its proper name, cardiovascular disease, is known to be responsible for more deaths than any other condition in the United States, and it has held that dubious honor for more than eight decades. There are several types of cardiovascular disease, and each targets a different part of the cardiovascular system. But, substance abuse disorders have been proven to be a factor in causing all of them.
The cardiovascular system is sometimes known as the circulatory system, and its responsibility is to pump blood around the body. The parts of the circulatory system include:
- The heart itself
Blood that is rich in oxygen reaches the muscle tissue and organs from the body’s arteries, while blood that is deoxygenated pumps via the veins into the heart to be oxygenated again. This cycle continues in a loop. The circulatory system also has a key role to play in removing harmful materials from the body. Blood vessels take waste products to be filtered by the liver after which they can be expelled. The circulatory system overall is essential to keep all muscles and organs functioning properly.
What Does Cardiovascular Disease Do to The Body?
Cardiovascular disease refers to any damage or dysfunction within the circulatory system. Any disruption to the circulation of the blood could cause the tissues and organs to be deprived of oxygen, which results in necrosis. In turn, this means the muscular actions that need blood flow start to weaken, compromising the functions of organs, such as the brain and liver.
How Do Substance Abuse Disorders Cause Cardiovascular Disease?
There are several forms of cardiovascular disease that can be triggered by substance abuse disorders. These include:
- Aneurysmal Dilation – Sometimes known as an aneurysm, this condition involves a swelling occurring in one of the arteries because of a weakness in the artery wall, which then compromises the healthy function of the cardiovascular system.
- Arrhythmia – Arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, is often non-threatening. However, it can potentially compromise the blood’s normal flow rate and could possibly cause a cardiac arrest.
- Atherosclerosis – This disease involves plaque building up inside the blood vessels, narrowing them and making it harder to pump the blood around the body efficiently.
- Cardiac Arrest – This sudden stopping of the heart also stops breathing while triggering unconsciousness. Although sometimes confused with heart attacks, a cardiac arrest involves no disruption to the blood flow.
- Cardiomyopathy – Damage to the heart muscle can either mean that it is thickened and bigger than usual, thus blocking the blood flow from the ventricle, or that the ventricle itself is enlarged, thus compromising the ability of the heart to move blood around the body.
- Cerebral Infarction – This is a condition caused because of cardiovascular disease and involves brain tissue dying because of oxygen deprivation from poor circulation.
- Cerebrovascular Accident – A CVA refers to disrupted blood flow that can damage the brain. The common name for a CVA is a stroke.
- Coronary Heart Disease – This happens because of damage to the heart’s major blood vessels and develops if the coronary arteries are diseased or damaged.
- Hemorrhaging – This is also caused by damage to the blood vessels. If they are ruptured or torn, blood can escape from its circulatory path, damaging other tissues and disrupting the function of the organs.
- Hypertension – Sometimes referred to as high blood pressure, this happens when the resistance of the blood flow against the walls of the arteries is high, often because of narrow arteries.
- Hypotension – Otherwise known as low blood pressure, in very severe cases this condition could be life-threatening.
- Myocardial infarction – Often confused with a cardiac arrest, this is a heart attack, caused because the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen.
- Thrombosis – If blood pumps through the blood vessels too slowly, the blood cells may clump together forming a blood clot. Thrombosis occurs in both arteries and veins, with arterial thrombosis causing strokes and heart attacks.
Which Drugs Have Been Associated with Cardiovascular Disease?
Many drugs have been shown to cause heart disease, including:
- Alcohol – 17.8 percent of people with heart problems have struggled with alcoholism.
- Cocaine – Use of this drug has been found to account for around a quarter of all heart attacks in 18- to 45-year-olds. Even using cocaine one time may cause Prinzmetal’s angina, which is extremely painful.
- Opioids – Even though many opioids are prescribed medications, they can slow down the body’s sympathetic nervous system while stimulating its parasympathetic nervous system. This causes the body’s systems and organs to slow down and become depressed. The result can be CVAs, heart disease, arrhythmia, and hypotension.
- Steroids – These can cause a range of heart conditions, including thrombosis, blood pressure fluctuations, cardiomyopathy, and strokes.
How to Lower Cardiovascular Disease Risks
The chance of getting a cardiovascular disease diminishes greatly if you make lifestyle changes. It is advised by medical professionals to eat healthily with low levels of fat and salt in the diet, to exercise regularly, to have a healthy BMI and body weight, to find healthy ways of managing stress, and, of course, to give up alcohol and drugs and live a sober lifestyle.
Getting Help for Addiction
Cardiovascular disease is just one of the many risks associated with substance abuse disorders. Anyone who is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol will find that his or her body bears the brunt of the disorder and a host of medical problems can ensue.
Seeking help from skilled professionals is the best way to become free of addiction and to move on to a healthier life. SOBA College Addiction Recovery Treatment Center’s rehab program helps individuals to avoid the risks associated with substance abuse through customized treatments that are tailored to the needs of every individual. Addressing the issues behind the addiction, SOBA’s qualified therapists and expert doctors can help to set patients on the road to recovery by equipping them with the skills and strategies needed to live a productive and happy life without the need for drugs or alcohol.