Five Tips to Repairing Your Heart After Addiction
Author: Atlanta Addiction Recovery Center Editor
We know that substance abuse causes serious damage to the brain and vital organs, and the heart is no exception. Numerous studies show that there is a direct connection between heart disease and substance abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that drug misuse can cause cardiovascular effects ranging from minor to severe, including abnormal heart rate, high blood pressure, collapsed veins (from injections), bacterial infections and heart attack.
But in many cases, as healing begins in recovery, it is possible to reverse much of the damage done through making healthy life choices.
Repairing Your Heart After Addiction
Eat a Healthy Diet
It’s no surprise that watching your diet is at the top of our “healthy heart” list. According to the American Heart Association, eating nutritious foods such as lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables is one of the easiest and best ways to keep your heart strong and healthy. Make sure to limit red meat, high-fat dairy products, sugar, saturated fats, trans fats and sodium. Increasing your protein intake is vital to repairing damaged tissues in the heart caused by substance abuse. There are plenty of foods that are great sources of protein as an alternative to red meat.
Try a few of these healthy options:
- Nuts and seeds
- Peanut butter
Start an Exercise Routine
High blood pressure plays a huge role in developing heart disease. Exercise actually lowers your blood pressure, helps control your weight, reduces stress and strengthens the heart muscle. Whatever method of exercise you choose, make sure it involves lots of good cardio to get your blood pumping. If going to the gym feels like a chore, try to incorporate something into your routine that you enjoy like hiking, swimming or bike riding. Exercise is also a great relapse prevention tool. Just make sure to get up and move!
Knowing how to calm your heart rate is key to preserving cardiovascular health. Stress is a normal part of our lives, but how you deal with it is up to you. Making time to relax on a daily basis can help reduce your blood pressure by lowering your body’s stress response. But practicing relaxation techniques is just part of the equation. Getting to the bottom of what causes your stress and anxiety with mental health counseling can do wonders for your overall health. In the past you may have turned to alcohol and drugs to deal with stress, but now you can rely on the professionals who are a part of your recovery team to support you. At AARC, group and individual therapy sessions can help you learn to deal with stress effectively so that you can stay focused on your health and recovery.
Practice Good Dental Hygiene
Who would have thought that something as simple as brushing and flossing your teeth could keep your heart healthy? Dental hygiene is a good indicator of your overall health, including the health of your heart. Studies have shown that there is a correlation between periodontal (gum) disease and heart disease. Bacteria in the mouth can move into the bloodstream, inflame blood vessels and lead to heart disease. So be sure to brush and floss your teeth daily to prevent gum and heart disease. Your teeth and heart will thank you!
Don’t Smoke and Avoid Second Hand Smoke
Approximately 20 percent of deaths related to heart disease are caused from smoking. Your chances of developing heart disease and/or having a heart attack greatly increase the more you smoke, so it’s vitally important to quit if you haven’t already. In addition to quitting, you should avoid breathing in secondhand smoke, which is just as harmful as smoking because you are breathing in the same dangerous chemicals that have been emitted into the air.
Cigarette smoke adversely affects your cardiovascular health in many ways including:
- Increases heart rate
- Raises blood pressure
- Narrows arteries
- Decreases blood flow
- Causes arteriosclerosis (hardening of arteries)
- Causes a greater chance of blood clots
Making the decision to lead a healthy life boils down to making healthy choices. Recovery will require you to make many life adjustments. And although you can’t change the past, you can move forward making the positive changes that will lead you down a path of health and sobriety.