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Feb 17, 2021
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New numbers: how drugs, alcohol and tobacco are linked to heart health in young people

Heart health and abuse

The prevalence of major cardiovascular diseases among young and middle-aged people is increasing. Obesity and metabolic syndrome contribute greatly to this growth. In the same time, the most important risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attacks and strokes include smoking, drug and alcohol use. These are modifiable factors, that is, they can be influenced to prevent disease.

The effects of tobacco, alcohol and drugs on the cardiovascular system have been well studied (1, 2, 3, 4). They can have a direct toxic effect on the heart, act on health by increasing oxidative stress, dysfunction of the inner lining of blood vessels and the release of large amounts of adrenaline into the blood.

It has previously been shown that people who abuse drugs are more likely to suffer from heart disease than those who do not. At the same time, the number of people using alcohol and illegal substances is increasing all over the world.

New research

In a new study, researchers analyzed data from more than a million patient records from a major US Veterans Health Network. They focused on premature (under the age of 55 for men and up to 65 for women) and extremely premature (under the age of 40) development of coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

Scientists have found that:

  • People who developed cardiovascular diseases prematurely smoked more often (the proportion of those who died prematurely smoked 63%, and 41% did not die prematurely), drank alcohol (32% vs 15%), took cocaine (13% vs 2.5 %), amphetamines (3% vs 0.5%) and cannabis (12.5% ​​vs 3%).
  • In smokers, heart disease developed prematurely twice as often as in nonsmokers, in those who drink at leisure – 50% more often compared with nondrinkers.
  • Cocaine increased the risk of premature heart disease almost 2.5 times, amphetamines almost 3 times.
  • On average, the risk of premature cardiovascular disease doubled with the use of one substance, and with the use of four or more, it increased by nineth time. This connection was more expressive for women.
  • In people who took drugs, cardiovascular diseases developed extremely prematurely 1.5-3 times more often.

The authors point out that this is an observational study that cannot prove that smoking, alcohol or drug use was the cause of the diseases in the cases considered.


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