Scientists Investigating Marijuana's Affect On Heart Health

The media has been flooded with reports of cannabis' medical effecs on the human body. Though us herbalists would prefer only good news about cannabis be shown in the media, we cannot rule out the possibilities of negatives that may result in marijuana use. Scientists have been investigating the possible hazards that marijuana can have against your heart

While nothing is concrete, the American College of Cardiology suggest that cannabis can hurt your heart and cause other health complications. The study entailed researchers pulling over 20 million health records from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a dataset comprising about 20 percent of all medical centers in America. The study focused on patients from the ages of 18 to 55. 

Focusing on patients who smoked marijuana, the study resulted in focusing on 1.5 percent (316,000 people) of the 20 million health records. The cardiovascular risk of those patients was compared to those who do not use cannabis, and results found that marijuana users had a significantly increased risk for stroke, heart failure, coronary artery disease and sudden cardiac death.

The study also finds that marijuana use could cause a variety of factors known to increase cardiovascular risk, such as obesity, high blood pressure, smoking cigarettes and alcohol use. However, these results do not seem to investigate other risk factors that the patients could have been involved in. Aditi Kalla, MD, Cardiology Fellow at the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia and the study’s lead author, stated, “Even when we corrected for known risk factors, we still found a higher rate of both stroke and heart failure in these patients, so that leads us to believe that there is something else going on besides just obesity or diet-related cardiovascular side effects. More research will be needed to understand the pathophysiology behind this effect.” 

To better understand why cannabis use can affect your heart health, the answer is in the cannabinoid receptors. The heart muscle cells have cannabis receptors relevant to contractility, or squeezing ability. For this reason, cannabis may have an affect on the functionality of your heart, thus creating a risk for cardiovascular health risks. 

The study also concluded, "Because the study was based on hospital discharge records, the findings may not be reflective of the general population. The study was also limited by the researchers’ inability to account for quantity or frequency of marijuana use, purpose of use (recreational or medical), or delivery mechanism (smoking or ingestion)."

With legalization sweeping the country, more individuals are becoming vocal about the cannabis use and the affects it has in their bodies and lives. This will aid to the research necessary to discover the health benefits and risks of the plant.