New research found that people who used marijuana daily were about 34% more likely to develop coronary artery disease than people who have never used the drug.1
Experts note the rapid increases in marijuana use, particularly amongst younger generations.
No matter how you may be consuming marijuana (whether via smoking or edibles), experts believe all methods can potentially pose health risks.
Documentations made by “Dotdash Meredith Publishing Company” concerning New research on Marijuana use, suggest that frequent usage can be a risk factor for coronary artery disease (CAD).
A two-part observational study—presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology on March 5—found in the first part that people who used marijuana daily were about 34% more likely to develop CAD than people who have never used the drug. On the other hand, infrequent marijuana use was not correlated with higher odds for CAD.1
“We found that cannabis use is linked to CAD, and there seems to be a dose-response relationship in that more frequent cannabis use is associated with a higher risk of CAD,” Ishan Paranjpe, MD, the study’s lead author and resident physician at Stanford University, said in a news release.
In the second part of the study, the researchers used a genetics-based approach called “Mendelian randomization” to identify a causal relationship between cannabis use disorder and CAD risk.1 They found individuals with a genetic susceptibility to cannabis use disorder or severe cannabis dependence had a higher risk of developing CAD compared with other participants.
Paranjpe and his colleagues used data from the All of Us Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, which included health information and habits of 175,000 people, in addition to surveys about cannabis use frequency and medical records over several years.
“In terms of the public health message, it shows that there are probably certain harms of cannabis use that weren’t recognized before,” Dr. Paranjpe concluded. “People should take that into account.”
Marijuana Use and Cardiovascular Health?
Using marijuana can impact someone’s cardiovascular health because cannabinoids, a type of chemical found in marijuana can cause an increase in heart rate and affect the sympathetic nervous system, noted Dr. Page.
He explained that when you increase your heart rate, it also means you’re increasing myocardial oxygen demand, which means that the heart is going to need more oxygen to pump more efficiently.
“The heart is going to have to work harder and therefore you get what we call tachycardia, or an increased risk for heart rate which can predispose you to potential arrhythmias, angina, and chest pain,” he continued.
Dr. Page went on to explain that when the sympathetic nervous system becomes excessively activated it can lead to prolonged stress and increase overall heart rate and workload. This in the long term may play a role in developing chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and other heart conditions like myocardial infarction, or heart attack.
“By stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, we are activating all of these compensatory mechanisms that can lead over the long term to cardiovascular disease,” he said.
Using marijuana can also increase a person’s risk of heart disease because it can activate certain proteins that can lead to cell death, a decrease in heart pumping function, and activation of the systemic inflammatory response system, which can trigger blood vessel dysfunction, Dr. Talaska added.
Does the Method of Marijuana Consumption Matter?
There are different ways for people to consume marijuana, such as smoking via pipes, joints, blunts, and bongs, vaping, or eating edibles, gummies, and other baked goods, Yu-Ming Ni, MD, a cardiologist specializing in noninvasive cardiology at MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, reported.
While more research is needed to examine the health implications of various forms of marijuana consumption on the heart, brain, and other vital organs, Dr. Ni noted that smoking marijuana can be more harmful to lung health compared to other means.
“Smoking increases inhaled toxins. It doesn’t matter if it’s cigarettes or marijuana—you’re consuming those toxins and they’re getting into the airways, getting into blood vessels, and damaging [those] blood vessels,” he said.
Dr. Ni added that most people who smoke marijuana also tend to inhale more deeply with each breath, and tend to pull in more toxins and irritants into several parts of the lungs compared to cigarette smokers.
No matter how you may be consuming marijuana, Dr. Page believes all methods to some point can potentially pose health risks.
“Based on observational data that looked at smoking, vaping, or edibles, the bottom line is the risk for myocardial infarction appeared to be the same across the board,” he said. “The new data validates other observational data—that is, the longer you are using, we do know there is an association of having a much higher risk than those who are using it intermittently.”