WEED WARNING: Study finds marijuana damages hearts of senior users, sending them to early graves

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

New studies presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia highlight the potential risks associated with marijuana use 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 marijuana 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 cannabis 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 cannabis use, whether recreational or medicinal, may lead to the development of cardiovascular disease.

He pointed out that cannabis 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.

Marijuana 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 marijuana use among individuals over the age of 65 between 2015 and 2019.

Additionally, nearly three out of every ten marijuana users develop cannabis 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 marijuana users.

The studies suggest that while acute use of marijuana 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 cannabis use on the risk of developing heart failure. Daily marijuana use was associated with a 34% increased risk of heart failure compared to those who reported never using marijuana.

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