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Smoking Marijuana Is Not Good For Your Heart, Says American Heart Association

The AHA found that smoking THC causes your heart to beat faster, demand more oxygen, and possibly cause a higher blood pressure when inactive.

A review of previous studies connecting heart health and smoking cannabis may cause you to reconsider your consumption habits. Conducted by the American Heart Association and published in the organization’s flagship journal Circulation, the review concluded vaping or smoking cannabis does not provide therapeutic benefits for your heart but possibly the opposite.

“The American Heart Association recommends that people not smoke or vape any substance, including cannabis products, because of the potential harm to the heart, lungs and blood vessels,” Dr. Rose Marie Robertson, the deputy chief science and medical officer for the American Heart Association, said in a statement.

The review coincides with similar recent papers that explored how smoking cannabis affects the heart. The AHA paper notes that smoking THC causes your heart to beat faster, demand more oxygen, and possibly cause a higher blood pressure when inactive. It adds that smoking can interfere with heart medications and possibly trigger cardiovascular events in people with pre-existing heart conditions.

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A 2017 study, for example, found that smoking cannabis raised your risk of heart attack within that first hour of consumption. But as a review published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology noted as well, there is no definitive link between hearth health and smoking cannabis because observational, short-term studies constitute the majority of existing research.

One previous study did report that THC was present in 6% of all heart attack patients 50 and younger. Another found cannabis users between 18 and 45 were at higher risk of stroke than their peers who didn’t consume marijuana. But the AHA came to a similar conclusions in the JACC review.

“Unfortunately, most of the available data are short-term, observational and retrospective studies, which identify trends but do not prove cause and effect,” said clinical pharmacologist Robert Page II, who was chairman of the AHA writing group.

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Photo by Robina Weermeijer

“Health care professionals need a greater understanding of the health implications of cannabis, which has the potential to interfere with prescribed medications and/or trigger cardiovascular conditions or events, such as heart attacks and strokes,” he added.

However, the AHA review added that CBD produced almost the inverse effects on the heart compared to THC’s impact. CBD, which does not produce the psychoactive “high” THC does, was associated with lower blood pressure, reduced heart rates, reduced inflammation, and increased the ability of the arteries to open.

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In addition, the AHA specified these negative heart health effects caused by THC were from smoking or vaping. “Many consumers and health care professionals don’t realize that cannabis smoke contains components similar to tobacco smoke,” Page said. Regardless of THC content, smoking cannabis could increase concentrations of carbon monoxide in the blood five-fold and tar three-fold. Those effects strongly correlate to effects of smoking tobacco cigarettes.

“If people choose to use cannabis for its medicinal or recreational effects, the oral and topical forms, for which doses can be measured, may reduce some of the potential harms,” Page said. “It is also vitally important that people only use legal cannabis products because there are no controls on the quality or the contents of cannabis products sold on the street.”

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