If you take stock in the latest research (2018), cannabis is not good for heart health. If you look at previous studies, it reduces blood pressure and clears dangerous plaques from arteries. Which is the truth?
A 2018 report from the American Heart Association indicates that cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of death in the US, with more than 800,000 deaths annually. In 2013-2014, the annual direct and indirect cost of CVD and stroke was an estimated $329.7 billion. It comes as no surprise that investigating the effects of cannabis on heart health is top priority. The answer is even more critical, particularly for young people and those who already have cardiovascular issues.
The latest study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) concluded that the use of cannabis was associated with significantly higher cardiovascular mortality. The results were based on analyzing records of 2,097 patients (age 50 or below) diagnosed with a type 1 myocardial infarction (MI) at two academic hospitals from 2000 to 2016.
The results are also in line with previous findings that indicate cannabis as a possible risk factor for CVD in young adults. A detailed study published in the Journal of Thoracic Disease concluded that acute cannabis consumption increases systolic blood pressure (SBP), the risk of MI, and arrhythmia (irregular heart beat) and ischemic stroke (reduced blood flow to the brain), especially in healthy young patients. Smoking cannabis compounded these effects, especially during the first few hours of consumption. Heavy use of tobacco and alcohol further exacerbated the problem.
A study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology established a direct correlation between the increased duration of cannabis use and the increase risk of death due to hypertension. This is in stark contrast to other studies that show CBD significantly reducing blood pressure and even more that found CBD had the ability to clear plaques from arteries.
Also contrastingly, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) shows great potential in encouraging the heart to work harder to pump blood. Therefore it is a promising therapeutic target in the management of several disease conditions.
In 2015, Alexander Stokes, Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at the John A. Burns School of Medicine, obtained a U.S. patent for his novel therapy in 2015. He claimed that plant-based cannabinoids activated the cannabinoid receptor TRPV1 therapeutically to treat heart disease. Makai Biotechnology, LLC, a Hawaii-based cardiovascular therapy company founded by Stokes sold the license for his therapy to pharmaceutical development company GrowBlox Life Sciences, LLC soon after.
The impact of cannabis on cardiovascular health might be confusing considering these mixed findings. Still, we need more research. Especially because the above studies leave out many factors. They do not take the subjects’ age, medical or mental health status, alcohol, and opioid use into account. Nor did these studies consider the mode of cannabis use (smoking vs non-smokables such as edibles, oils, topicals and vaporizers).