Study Links Use of Marijuana to Heart Attack, Stroke and Other Heart Risks

About 1-in-20 Americans have preexisting cardiovascular risks which makes regular marijuana use unadvisable, researchers determined.

Smoking weed, using edibles or vaping marijuana may increase the risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke, or other serious heart problems, according to the findings of a new study.

In a report published late last month in the medical journal Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers from Massachusetts General Hosptal warn that individuals who use marijuana several times a week are more likely to experience serious and potentially life-threatening heart risks.

The population-based study involved more than 434,000 participants, using data taken from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, which was collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 2016 and 2020, from individuals in 27 American states and two territories. Researchers focused on marijuana use among individuals between 18 to 74 years old, including people from the general population, users who never smoked tobacco, and younger participants.

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Marijuana Heart Risks

According to the findings, daily cannabis users had a 25% increased risk of suffering a heart attack, a 42% increased risk of having a stroke, and a 28% increased risk of having any heart problem.

The researchers determined that, among younger marijuana users, there was a 36% higher risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke, whether they smoked tobacco cigarettes or not.

Participants who used marijuana once a week faced a 3% increased risk of heart attack and a 5% increased risk of suffering from a stroke. Smoking marijuana just once a month also carried an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, but less than weekly or daily use, the researchers found.

The data indicates there is a dose-response relationship between marijuana use and cardiovascular side effects. The more marijuana a person uses, the more their risk of suffering heart problems increases.

Overall, about 75% of participants in the study reported using cannabis in some form to get high. Some smoked marijuana, others vaped, and some used edibles, but the study didn’t focus on the specific method of use.

Smoking was the most common way marijuana was used, but researchers said smoking weed isn’t safer. Smoking substances typically makes them more toxic.

Side Effects of Marijuana Impact Cardiovascular System

Prior research has shown THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, increases inflammation in the blood vessels which may lead to heart disease and heart side effects. Consuming edibles and vaping weed would lead to the same risk of heart problems since they also contain THC.

Apart from inflammation, researchers are unsure how marijuana affects the cardiovascular system specifically. It may be related to oxidative stress, abnormal heart rhythms, or a combination of several mechanisms leading to inflammation and damaged blood vessels.

But, according to researchers, people who have preexisting heart disease or an increased risk of cardiovascular disease should especially avoid using marijuana. That accounts for roughly one in every 20 Americans.

The findings of the new study add to a growing body of research suggesting marijuana is harmful to the heart and cardiovascular system. This was one of the largest studies conducted to date showing a link between marijuana use and cardiovascular side effects among those who don’t smoke tobacco cigarettes.

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