Cocaine Health Risks: Enlarged heart
The abuse of cocaine is associated with stress on a person’s heart and permanent heart damage. Why? Because cocaine is a very strong stimulant that causes the heart to speed up. It also causes all the blood vessels to constrict or tighten. This combination stresses the heart that is trying to pump blood through the constricted arteries and veins.
The effect of repeated use of cocaine is an enlarged heart that is less able to pump blood efficiently. The technical term for this condition is cardiac hypertrophy. In some cases, this harm may be able to be reversed but in others, it is a permanent condition.
What Happens When the Heart Becomes Enlarged?
The heart is composed of muscle fibers that contract to push blood out the heart and through the body.
As the muscle fibers thicken, they become less flexible and less efficient. The lowered efficiency means that the blood and oxygen supply to the cocaine user’s heart can be reduced or even blocked. This can lead to an abnormal rhythm or even a heart attack.
Any cocaine user may experience chest pain. The amount of cocaine used or the frequency of use are not related to the likelihood of heart problems occurring.
Heart damage or the reduction of blood flow to the heart can result in death, even for a new cocaine abuser. This possibility was never realized by cocaine users until the death of basketball star Len Bias in 1986. Even though Bias had no signs of prior heart problems and was a healthy athlete, a normal dose of cocaine caused a cardiac arrest.
According to a 2006 medical journal, most cocaine-related deaths occur in young people between the ages of 19 and 29. As many as 47% of all chronic cocaine users may have enlarged hearts, many without being aware of it.
If you are using cocaine, you should be aware of the threat to your heart that can result.