There might be a connection between the use marijuana and cardiac health

New research found that there is also some form of cardiovascular disease in 2.3 percent of reported marijuana users.

Marijuana leaf
New research suggests marijuana can have an adverse effect on cardiovascular health, but more evidence is required.

The research published in the American Cardiology College Journal.

The paper also looked into potential marijuana interactions with medications that are usually prescribed for cardiovascular problems, and how marijuana chemicals can influence the heart at a molecular level.

Heart disease-a form of cardiovascular disease (CVD)-is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In 2015, heart disease in the United States caused 23.4 per cent of all deaths.

Nearly half of all U.S. adults have some form of CVD, the American Heart Association (AHA) reports. They quote an article in the Circulation journal that sets this figure at 121.5 million U.S. adults, about 48 per cent of the population.

The reported 2.3 percent of reported marijuana users who also have CVD, by contrast, is relatively low compared to the wider U.S. population.

Limited current evidence

This doesn’t mean there are no links between drug use and CVD. Nonetheless, insufficient evidence is available to indicate any connection, and what’s available is of poor quality.

There are significant limitations on researching marijuana in the United States. This means scientists are unable to conduct randomized clinical trials to assess the health effects.

Researchers typically focus their work on observational studies, and the study authors say that they show a possible connection between use of marijuana and cardiovascular events.

Nevertheless, an article in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine notes that observational studies that have taken place are either inconclusive or have issues with their methodologies. That suggests scientists are having difficulty drawing any conclusions from them.

Marijuana and heart health

The authors of the article in the American College of Cardiology Journal looked at National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data to determine how many consumers of marijuana have CVDs.

They found that two million of the 89.6 million people in the United States who reported using marijuana also had CVDs. This is equivalent to 2.3 per cent of registered users of marijuana.

The lead author is Dr. Ersilia M. DeFilippis, a former resident in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA. She is now a Fellow in Cardiology at the Irving Medical Center at Columbia University.

She says, “Recreational and medical marijuana use is growing domestically, yet many of its cardiovascular effects remain poorly understood. In our NHANES query, we estimated that 2 million marijuana-using adults had CVD in 2015–2016.”

“Since that time, additional marijuana-related states have passed the legislature, so their use may have increased even further.”

“Notably, many of our cardiology patients are on medicines that can interact with marijuana in unpredictable ways, depending on the formulation. This highlights the need for more data to enable us to better advise providers as well as patients.”

Given the increase in drug use in the U.S., the study authors encourage physicians to question patients if they are using marijuana and to test their prescription if appropriate.

There is scant current evidence and what little there is doesn’t indicate a clear link between marijuana use and cardiovascular events. Researchers need to do more high-quality research specifically to assess how and why marijuana impacts cardiovascular health — if at all.

According to the corresponding author Dr. Muthiah Vaduganathan, who is a Brigham cardiologist, “In the clinic, patients always ask us about marijuana use protection, and we are pressed to provide the best scientific evidence.”

“Our current approach is that patients who are at high risk of cardiovascular events should be counseled to avoid or at least minimize marijuana use and that rigorous scientific research should be conducted to further inform recommendations for patient care.”

– Dr. Muthiah Vaduganathan

Nonetheless, officials will have to lift the limits on marijuana research before that can happen.

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