Marijuana use increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart failure, says AHA

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A cannabis plant.

LOS ANGELES, Nov 7, (Agencies): Two recent studies presented by the American Heart Association shed light on the adverse effects of regular marijuana use on both the heart and the brain. During the 2023 Scientific Sessions event in Philadelphia, the AHA unveiled these findings, revealing a heightened risk of heart-related complications among frequent marijuana users.

In the first study, researchers tracked 156,999 individuals who initially exhibited no signs of heart failure upon joining the research program. Over a span of nearly four years, approximately 2% of participants (2,958 people) developed heart failure. Notably, those who used marijuana on a daily basis faced a 34% increased risk of developing heart failure, compared to individuals who had never used marijuana. This elevated risk was consistent regardless of age, gender, or smoking history. Furthermore, when coronary artery disease was factored into the analysis, the risk of heart failure dropped to 27%, suggesting a potential link between daily marijuana use and the development of heart failure through coronary artery disease.

The second study focused on 28,535 marijuana users with existing cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol. Drawing data from the 2019 National Inpatient Sample, the study centered on adults aged over 65 with cardiovascular risk factors who reported no tobacco use. The results indicated that approximately 20% of these individuals (around 5,710 participants) faced an increased likelihood of experiencing a major heart or brain event while hospitalized. An additional 13.9% (about 3,970 participants) with cardiovascular risk factors encountered “major adverse heart and brain events” during hospitalization. Notably, those with cardiovascular risk factors who used marijuana daily had a higher incidence of heart attacks, with a rate of 7.6% compared to 6% among non-daily users. High blood pressure (defined as any measurement exceeding 130/80 mm Hg) and high cholesterol were identified as predictive factors for major adverse heart and brain events in marijuana users.

Lead study author Avilash Mondal, M.D., a resident physician at Nazareth Hospital in Philadelphia, emphasized the uniqueness of their study, as it excluded individuals who used tobacco, allowing them to focus specifically on the relationship between cannabis use and cardiovascular outcomes.

In addition to the AHA studies, a 2023 study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention further corroborated these findings, highlighting that daily marijuana use could elevate an individual’s risk of coronary artery disease by one-third when compared to non-users.

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