Cannabis smoking linked to 34% higher heart attack risks, study says


A man smokes marijuana in Washington Square Park as cannabis enthusiasts mark the annual but informal marijuana holiday.—Reuters

New studies presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia highlight the potential risks associated with the use of marijuana — made from dried cannabis leaves — in older adults, including an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure.

One study revealed that older adults who do not smoke tobacco but use marijuana were at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke when hospitalised.

Furthermore, individuals who used this psychoactive drug from the cannabis plant daily had a 34% higher likelihood of developing heart failure. These findings are in line with the 2020 American Heart Association Scientific Statement that highlighted the potential cardiovascular risks associated with the drug’s use.

Robert Page II, chair of the volunteer writing group for the 2020 American Heart Association Scientific Statement, emphasised that observational data strongly suggests that marijuana use, whether recreational or medicinal, may lead to the development of cardiovascular disease.

He pointed out that marijuana use can increase the concentration of carbon monoxide and tar in the bloodstream, similar to smoking tobacco, both of which have been linked to heart problems.

Cannabis use is on the rise among older adults, with a significant increase reported between 2015 and 2018. A separate study found a 450% rise in past-month binge drinking and cannabis use among individuals over the age of 65 between 2015 and 2019.

Additionally, nearly three out of every ten users of this drug develop marijuana use disorder, a condition characterised by cravings, irritability, restlessness, and difficulties with mood and sleep when attempting to quit.

Another key finding is that individuals with chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol, may be more susceptible to the negative impact of marijuana use on their cardiovascular health. High blood pressure and high cholesterol were identified as key predictors of major adverse heart and brain events in users of these dried leaves.

The studies suggest that while acute use of cannabis can lead to a drop in blood pressure, chronic, long-term use is associated with an increase in blood pressure, which is a risk factor for various cardiovascular conditions.

In a separate study, researchers followed nearly 160,000 adults for about four years to investigate the impact of marijuana use on the risk of developing heart failure. Daily cannabis use was associated with a 34% increased risk of heart failure compared to those who reported never using cannabis.

These studies add to the growing body of research that highlights potential health implications, particularly on cardiovascular risk, associated with cannabis use.

They emphasise the need for more research to better understand these health implications, especially in the context of older adults and individuals with chronic conditions.



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