March 29, 2012

Atherosclerotic Heart Disease, Death of Whitney houston ?

"A lot of people were surprised that Whitney Houston -- according to the coroner's report -- had cardiovascular disease, but that was not surprising to me, because we knew she had a least one major risk factor for heart disease, cigarette smoking," said John Gordon Harold, MD, the president-elect of the American College of Cardiology.

The coroner said Whitney Houston died from drowning in her hotel bathtub in February, which may not have surprised those who have followed her sad history of substance abuse. But the coroner also noted that significant heart disease was a contributing factor in her death.Houston had atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque in her arteries — a condition often associated with age and obesity.

Yet heart disease, doctors say, is a frequent consequence of abusing drugs, alcohol and tobacco. The coroner's report noted the presence of cocaine, marijuana and prescription drugs in Houston, who also was reported to be a smoker and a drinker. What exactly is atherosclerotic heart disease, and how does cocaine contribute to it?  Heart and addiction specialists weigh in below.

Atherosclerotic heart disease is a condition in which plaque hardens in the arteries and narrows them, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.  This limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the organs and other parts of the body and can lead to serious problems including heart attack, stroke and death.

When a person engages in cocaine use on top of suffering from advanced atherosclerotic heart disease, the impact on the heart can be devastating.  Cocaine use increases heart rate, blood pressure and causes the blood vessels to constrict, reducing the supply of blood to the heart.
Atherosclerotic heart disease occurs when the arteries going to the heart and other organs are hardened because of plaque build-up within the arteries. Atherosclerosis can lead to stroke, heart attack and death, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute explains.

Atherosclerosis can develop into coronary heart disease, which is the No. 1 killer of American men and women, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Chronic kidney disease, peripheral arterial disease and carotid artery disease are other conditions that can be caused by atherosclerosis.

Symptoms of atherosclerosis can be hard to spot, since mild atherosclerosis typically doesn't have any signs, the Mayo Clinic reported. However, if the arteries are seriously clogged and hardened, the blood clot that forms in the artery can break, thereby leading to a heart attack or stroke.
Chronic heavy drinking makes the heart work increasingly harder to pump blood, and that enlarges the muscle. "The bigger it gets, the less blood it pumps and the more it tries to compensate by getting even larger," said Denisco. The end result is usually congestive heart failure.

Alcohol abuse can also affect the heart's electrical system, resulting in arrhythmia, an abnormal heartbeat. Alcohol and drug abuse are also associated with abnormal clot formation, which can lead to blood vessel blockages, heart attack and stroke.

Prescription painkillers, among the most abused substances today, don't cause the same damage to the heart. Instead these sedating drugs cause problems with breathing, which is why an overdose is potentially fatal.

Past celebrities who've died from atherosclerosis-related heart disease include Tim Russert, of TV news fame, who died in 2008 of a heart attack brought on by his atherosclerosis at age 58; and Chris Farley, a comedian, who died in 1997 of from accidental overdose of cocaine and morphine.



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