Puffing Daily? Marijuana Use Tied to Heart Risks

Two new studies published on November 6 have found that people in the United States who use daily marijuana for medical and recreational purposes have a higher link to cardiovascular events like heart attack or heart failure.

According to one study, daily use increases the risk of heart failure by one third. In the second study, older people with diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol who use marijuana have a higher chance of a heart event.

In the "All of Us" Research Program, 150,000 Americans participated as scientists looked at lifestyle, biology, and environment and the association between daily cannabis use in people who had a median age of 54. Scientists followed the participants — who ranged in race — for four years and adjusted according to a person's alcohol use, economic factors, and other types of smoking.

The study found that:

  • 2,958 (2%) of people developed heart failure.
  • People who used marijuana daily had a 34% increase in developing heart failure. Age, sex, or smoking history did not impact these results.

While the first study found a distinctive link, it did have its limitations. The study did not take into consideration if the marijuana was inhaled or eaten. This may be a crucial detail when finding out the link between cardiovascular events and marijuana.

The second study published used data from the 2019 National Inpatient Sample, the largest database of hospitalizations. In this study, records of older adults aged 65 or older were examined. Researchers divided the data into two groups: one included those who had a cardiovascular risk factor and smoked marijuana, and the second group included those would had a cardiovascular risk but did not smoke marijuana.

The second study found that:

  • Out of 28,535 patients with high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol, 20% had an increased risk of a heart or brain event.
  • The patients who used cannabis had a higher risk of heart attacks compared to those who did not use cannabis.

What does this mean for your next toke?

Folks using marijuana have more than doubled since 2015, and with laws changing in many states, people have easier access to marijuana. While using marijuana has seen profound results in folks treating Parkinson's disease, seizures, or chemotherapy side effects, people with cardiovascular concerns should talk to their doctor before taking a puff.

The study authors also encouraged doctors and health care professionals to ask patients if they use cannabis in order to ensure they are intaking the patients history correctly. Most doctors ask if someone smokes, however most patients believe this to be cigarette smoking. A more concrete and direct question could clear up some of the confusion.

If you feel chest pain, heart palpitations, or shortness of breath call your local emergency number for assistance.

While more research should be done in this area, be mindful of your risks and pay attention to any pertinent symptoms if you use marijuana and are at risk of a cardiovascular event.

The two studies, released today, will be presented at the American Heart Association's 2023 Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia this weekend.

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