NOV 08, 2023 11:10 AM PST

Cannabis Use Connected with Potential Long-Term Cardiology Issues

Two recent studies due to be presented as posters at the American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions 2023 between November 11-13 examine how frequent cannabis use could potentially lead to increased chances of cardiology issues, including heart attack, stroke, or heart failure. These studies were conducted by an international team of researchers and holds the potential to help scientists, medical professionals, and the public better understand the long-term health risks associated with cannabis use, specifically pertaining to cardiovascular concerns.

For the first study, which was conducted by the All of Us Research Program, researchers enlisted 156,999 participants who had not experienced heart failure at the time of the study’s enrollment to take part in a survey-based study to evaluate their cannabis use habits and conduct a follow-up survey 45 months later. The results indicated that heart failure emerged with 2,958 (1.88 percent) of the participants during the 48-month study period along with a 34 percent increased risk of emerging heart failure for participants were reported daily cannabis use compared to participants who didn’t use cannabis.

“Our results should encourage more researchers to study the use of marijuana to better understand its health implications, especially on cardiovascular risk,” said Dr. Yakubu Bene-Alhasan, who is a resident physician at Medstar Health and lead author of the study. “We want to provide the population with high-quality information on marijuana use and to help inform policy decisions at the state level, to educate patients and to guide health care professionals.”

For the second study, which was conducted by a separate team of researchers, data on 28,535 cannabis users aged 65 and over who used cannabis but not tobacco and had current heart risk factors was obtained from the 2019 National Inpatient Sample. the data was analyzed to determine a link between patients who used cannabis and whether their hospital stays involved some type of cardiovascular events, including stroke or heart attack. The results indicated that 20 percent of the cannabis users had a higher chance of suffering from either a major brain or heart event during hospitalization compared to non-cannabis users. Additionally, 13.9 percent of cannabis users with heart risk factors experienced a major brain or heart event during hospitalization compared to non-cannabis users.

“We must be mindful about major heart and stroke events in older adults with cannabis use disorder. At this point, we need more studies to understand the long-term effects of cannabis use,” said Dr. Avilash Mondal, MD, who is a resident physician at Nazareth Hospital and lead author of the study. “Health care professionals should include the question, ‘Are you using cannabis?’ when taking a patient’s history. If you ask patients if they are smoking, people think cigarette smoking. The main public message is to be more aware of the increased risks and open the lines of communication so that cannabis use is acknowledged and considered.”

This study comes as a 2022 Gallup survey revealed that 16 percent of Americans identify as cannabis users, which is up from 7 percent in 2013. Additionally, 48 percent reported trying cannabis at least once during their life, which is up from 4 percent in 1969.

What new discoveries will researchers make about the link between cannabis use and heart issues in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

Sources: EurekAlert!, AHA Scientific Sessions 2023, AHA Scientific Sessions 2023 (1), Wikipedia

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of “Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey”.
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