Is cannabis safe to use for those with cardiovascular diseases?

Published Apr 3, 2023 09:00 a.m. ET
Unsplash / jesse orrico

Cannabis has a variety of medicinal properties to offer, and recently it’s become a popular option for patients seeking to manage medical symptoms and conditions, since more countries and states are legalizing its use. However, some doctors are concerned about its potential adverse impact on the health of consumers with cardiovascular diseases.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the scientific data and anecdotal evidence available to help you to determine whether or not it’s a safe choice for those with cardiovascular-related issues.

The first and most important thing anyone with these conditions must understand is the potential cardiovascular effects that are associated with cannabis use, like an increased heart rate, cardiac output, and blood pressure which can all be a problem for those with underlying cardiovascular diseases. In addition, it’s essential to consider how inhalation of cannabis may damage or irritate the lungs which could potentially exacerbate cardiovascular disease.

The science

So far, several studies have looked at the potential link between cannabis use and cardiovascular disease. One study from 2017 which was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that cannabis use was often associated with a higher risk of heart attack, particularly in younger consumers. Another one which was published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology in 2018 determined that cannabis use could be associated with an increased risk of stroke, and that fact was especially true in participants who reported using cannabis frequently or at higher doses.

However, it is just as important to recognize that these studies have many limitations. The first is that they are only observational studies, which means that they cannot establish a solid or reliable link. In addition, cannabis use is typically associated with other major risk factors for consumers with cardiovascular diseases, like smoking tobacco and maintaining a poor-quality diet, which can make it difficult to be sure of the effects of cannabis use alone.

Cannabis may have potential cardiovascular benefits

If you came here today due to your own health, then you’ll be happy to hear that cannabis may also have potential benefits for consumers with cardiovascular diseases. One example of this can be found in a study from 2013 that was published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology which found that participants who used cannabis faced a lower risk of developing a cluster of conditions that can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease called metabolic syndrome. Another study from 2014 published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology discovered that cannabis use lowers the risk of obesity, which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

In conclusion

So is it safe to use cannabis if you struggle with cardiovascular disease? The truth is that it’s impossible to say for sure, as there is no clear answer. Though some research suggests it may increase your risk of experiencing cardiovascular events others seem to prove it may also offer some benefits. At the end of the day, this is a personal decision that should be made with help from your primary healthcare provider, who can better assess your individual risk, and guide you on safe consumption practices.

Reducing the risk

If you ultimately do choose to use cannabis, there are several things that you can do to minimize the risk. The first is to avoid smoking cannabis and the second is to steer towards alternative delivery methods, like edibles, capsules, tinctures, patches, or vaporizers. It’s also important to start with a low dose that can be slowly increased as needed since high doses of cannabis can increase heart rate and blood pressure. Finally, it’s essential to be mindful of other potential risk factors for cardiovascular disease, like smoking tobacco and poor diet which may have negative consequences especially when they’re used in conjunction with cannabis.

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