A major new study claims that smoking marijuana dramatically increases a person’s risk of suffering a heart attack and other cardiovascular events. The study authors, along with top cardiologists across the country, are calling for more research into the use of medicinal and recreational cannabis in light of the startling new evidence.
Researchers found that over a 5-year period, regular users as young as in their early 30s were 4.6 times more likely to have a cardiac-related illness than those who did not smoke the drug.
Scientists from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio presented their findings at the recent American College of Cardiology (ACC) conference held in Washington, D.C.
They noted, after studying the health records of over 210,00 cannabis users with 10 million non-users, that the pot smokers tended to have higher blood pressure than non-users and were more likely to drink heavily, smoke tobacco and have Type 2 diabetes — all of which can increase the risk of heart attacks.
While most medical concerns over the use of cannabis have been linked to mental disorders and depression, researchers also discovered a link between marijuana use and increased risk of stroke and heart failure.
“Even when we corrected for known risk factors, we still found a higher rate of both stroke and heart failure in those patients using the drug,” says Dr. Aditi Kalla, a cardiologist at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. “That leads us to believe that there is something else going on besides just obesity and or diet-related cardiovascular side effects.”
Researchers found that marijuana use was independently associated with a 26 percent increased risk of stroke and a 10 percent increase in heart failure.
Kalla noted that medical or recreational marijuana use is legal in more than half of U.S. States so a better understanding of its ill effects is needed.
“While the studies did not show a direct cause and effect between pot use and cardiovascular events, the statistics do present an association which means we need more studies,” Dr. Kevin Campbell, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based cardiologist tells Newsmax Health.
“We already know that smoking marijuana damages the lining of the lungs and can adversely affect the liver. We need to investigate the correlation between pot and heart disease especially now with the push to legalize the drug across the country.”
Dr. Gabe Mirkin, author of “The Healthy Heart Miracle,” tells Newsmax Health that marijuana may pose the same risks as cigarette smoking.
“Inhaling smoke breaks off plaque in the arteries which can cause complete obstruction of blood flow and trigger a heart attack, “ he says. “This study shows an association between marijuana smoking, inflammation and breaking off plaques. While it does not prove that smoking pot causes heart attacks, there is definitely some guilt by association.”
Campbell offers this advice: “I say the same thing to all my patients. Everything in moderation is the key to cardiovascular health. If you are going to smoke marijuana, reduce your other risk factors for heart disease by exercising, eating a healthy diet, watching your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and stop smoking cigarettes.
“And realize that every time you do something that increases your risk of heart failure, stroke or heart attack you are making a choice. Is smoking pot worth the risk?”
Dr. Andrew Rogove, who directs stroke care at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore N.Y. says that the new study “suggests that marijuana may not be as safe as proponents for its legalization claim.”
“Further studies need to be performed to elucidate how marijuana use can increase the risk for stroke and heart failure and if any particular way its use confers the risk.”
Dr. Shazia Alam, a board certified neurologist who directs inpatient stroke services at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., says she believes there is a growing number of patients of all ages with a history of marijuana use.
“We have certainly been seeing increased strokes in the younger population, therefore routinely inquiring about marijuana use may become an integral part in stroke prevention,” she says.