Rising Cardiovascular Deaths Linked to Substance Use

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Despite sharp declines in deaths from coronary heart disease and heart attacks over the past two decades, the rate of cardiovascular deaths linked to substance use rose by an average of 4 percent every year between 1999 and 2019, recent research suggests.

The rate of these deaths increased in all age and racial groups, but certain communities experienced starker year-over-year spikes.

“It is very concerning that despite overall improvements in cardiovascular mortality, rates of death related to substance use are increasing,” says Harpreet Bhatia, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine in the University of California in San Diego division of cardiovascular medicine, who was not involved in the study. “It is particularly concerning that these trends appear to be worsening existing health disparities, and to be having a significant impact on young adults.”

Stimulant Use on the Rise

Substance use of any kind — whether that be alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, or crystal meth — puts a strain on the cardiovascular system. It can weaken the heart muscle, cause abnormal heart rhythms, and accelerate cholesterol buildup in the arteries, Dr. Bhatia says.

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