Marijuana, derived from the Cannabis sativa plant, has been used for over 6000 years. Its cultivation and use date back to ancient times, but recent studies suggest it might pose heart health risks. Smoking marijuana, the fastest way to feel its effects, shares many toxins and carcinogens with cigarette smoke, a known contributor to heart disease and cancer.
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates a rise in cannabis use among older adults in the U.S., increasing from 2.4% to 4.2% between 2015 and 2018. However, its heart-related risks cannot be overlooked. Marijuana can cause the heart to beat faster and blood pressure to rise, which can be dangerous for people with heart disease. The risk of heart attack is significantly higher in the hour after smoking marijuana. Additionally, other studies have linked marijuana use to atrial fibrillation and high blood pressure.
The use of marijuana may also bring other complications. It can have cardiac and lung effects such as rapid heart rate and bronchitis, lead to addiction, and interact with other drugs, especially CBD. High dosages may cause or worsen anxiety, even leading to panic attacks. Moreover, its use can impair driving and the operation of heavy machinery, and is particularly hazardous for teenagers.
However, medical marijuana, particularly the non-psychoactive component CBD, has shown potential benefits. A study by JCI Insight in 2017 found that CBD lowered the resting blood pressure of participants, as well as their blood pressure after stress tests. This indicates a possible role for marijuana in reducing inflammation and managing disturbed sleep associated with various conditions.
It’s important to consider that people who use marijuana may face an increased risk of heart disease and heart attack. A study led by Stanford Medicine researchers showed that THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, causes inflammation in endothelial cells and atherosclerosis in mice.
While the benefits and risks of marijuana continue to be studied, it’s clear that its effects on heart health are a growing concern, especially for individuals with pre-existing heart conditions.
Harvard Health provides more detailed insights into the relationship between marijuana and heart health. For more information on the increasing use of medical marijuana among older adults, see Harvard Health.