; Feb. 26, 2023, news release, American College of Cardiology
A new study released by Stanford University finds that daily marijuana use could increase the risk of developing coronary artery disease. This research is significant given the increasing availability and potency of marijuana, with 39 states currently legalizing it in some form. The study used data from the All of Us Research Program of the U.S. National Institutes of Health to track the health and habits of 175,000 people. The findings, which will be presented at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting in New Orleans, suggest that daily cannabis users are about one-third more likely to develop coronary artery disease than those who have never used the drug.
The researchers found that cannabis use was associated with higher levels of a type of blood fat called triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, as well as higher body mass index. However, monthly cannabis use was not linked with a significant increase in the risk of heart disease.
The genetic analysis also found that the relationship between cannabis use and heart disease was independent of the effects of tobacco and alcohol use. It is speculated that THC, the ingredient in marijuana that produces the psychoactive effects, acts on receptors found in the central nervous system, and the heart and blood vessels, potentially leading to inflammation and the buildup of plaque, which can lead to heart disease.
Dr. Jeffrey Kuvin, senior vice president of cardiology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, NY, cautioned against assuming that marijuana is harmless. He warned that the full effects of marijuana on the heart may not be seen for years, and advised patients with heart conditions to avoid cannabis altogether. He also expressed concern that with the increasing legalization of marijuana, public awareness of the potential harms of cannabis needs to be increased.
The study findings are preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal. The datasets used in this study did not differentiate between various forms of cannabis use, such as smoking or consuming edibles. More research is needed to understand the full implications of cannabis use on heart health.