Diet Health & Fitness

Cannabis use and heart attack – is there a connection?

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A new study investigates whether there is an association between cannabis and heart attacks in young adults.

Cannabis is becoming legalized in a growing number of places, both for recreational and medical use.  Its use is also relatively common; one 2019 Gallup poll found that 12 percent of U.S. adults reported smoking cannabis.1 Young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 were more likely than any other age group to smoke cannabis.1 

Some studies have suggested that cannabis might help treat and ease symptoms of a variety of conditions such as nausea, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis.2  However, its long-term health effects are not fully understood.  Further, some research suggests that activation of the endocannabinoid system through cannabis use can affect the cardiovascular system and cause immediate increases in blood pressure and heart rate.3  Previous case studies have also reported a link between heavy consumption of cannabis and heart attacks.4 

Despite this, the relationship between recent cannabis use and heart attacks in young, healthy adults is unknown.  To fill this knowledge gap, a study was done, and the results were published in CMAJ.4

Researchers gathered data from 33,173 American young adults between the ages of 18 and 44.4  Participants were asked whether they had smoked cannabis recently as well as whether they had a history of heart attacks.  Recent cannabis use, according to the study, was characterized by using cannabis at least once during the previous 30 days.4 

Out of the people surveyed, 4,610 participants reported recent cannabis use, and the majority of these participants had used cannabis more than four times within the previous month.4  Rates of cannabis consumption were comparatively higher in certain groups, including males, unmarried people, frequent alcohol consumers, and individuals who consume conventional or electronic cigarettes. 

1.3% of the cannabis users in the study reported a history of heart attacks, compared to 0.8% of non-users in the study.4  According to the study, “The magnitude of this association increased among more frequent users of cannabis.”

The results of this study suggest that recent cannabis use could be associated with an increased rate of heart attacks; however, more research needs to be done to determine whether these factors are related.

It is important to note that 76.3% of cannabis users in the study consumed cannabis through smoking, and smoking can impact lung health, and in turn, potentially have effects on the cardiovascular system.4  In addition, medical details surrounding participants’ heart attack histories were not collected, such as the type and severity of the heart attack, as well as whether they occurred before or after the participant began using cannabis.  These details could be important for research purposes, and more research needs to be done on this topic to assess these study limitations.

References

  1. Hrynowski, Z. (2019). What percentage of Americans Smoke Marijuana? The Gallup. Accessed 2021, September 10, from https://news.gallup.com/poll/284135/percentage-americans-smoke-marijuana.aspx
  2. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana: An Evidence Review and Research Agenda. (2017, January). The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. Washington (DC): National Academies Press. Accessed online from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK425767/
  3. Latif, Z., Garg, N. (2020). The impact of marijuana on the cardiovascular system: a review of the most common cardiovascular events associated with marijuana use. J Clin Med 9(6): 1925. Doi: 10.3390/jcm9061925
  4. Ladha, K.S., Mistry, N., Wijeysundera, D.N., et al (2021, September 7). Recent cannabis use and myocardial infarction in young adults: a cross-sectional study. CMAJ 193(35): E1377-E1384. Doi: 10.1503/cmaj.202392
  5. Image by Raman Oza from Pixabay 

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