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Daily marijuana use increases heart failure risk, study shows

Nearly half of U.S. states now permit recreational marijuana, but studies say there are risks to frequent usage.
Daily marijuana use increases heart failure risk, study shows
Posted at 8:36 AM, Nov 06, 2023

As more states consider legalizing recreational cannabis, two new studies that the American Heart Association will soon present indicate that marijuana use leads to an increased heart failure risk.

The findings will be formally presented next week at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2023. 

One study shows that daily use of marijuana raised the risk of developing heart failure by about one-third, even when accounting for comorbidities such as obesity and diabetes. This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and included over 150,000 participants. 

The study followed people for up to four years and found that about 2% of those enrolled had heart failure. Those who used marijuana daily were 34% more likely than those who never used marijuana to develop heart failure. 

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“Prior research shows links between marijuana use and cardiovascular disease like coronary artery disease, heart failure and atrial fibrillation, which is known to cause heart failure,” said lead study author Yakubu Bene-Alhasan. “Marijuana use isn’t without its health concerns, and our study provides more data linking its use to cardiovascular conditions.”

A follow-up analysis indicated that coronary artery disease is a pathway through which daily marijuana use may lead to heart failure. 

The American Heart Association said one limitation of the study was the data did not indicate whether the marijuana was smoked or consumed as edibles. 

“Our results should encourage more researchers to study the use of marijuana to better understand its health implications, especially on cardiovascular risk,” Bene-Alhasan said. “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.”

Another study shows that "older people with any combination of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol who used marijuana significantly increased their risk for a major acute heart or brain event while hospitalized, compared to those who reported not using marijuana," the American Heart Association said. 

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The study enrolled 28,535 cannabis users with existing cardiovascular risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The study found that marijuana users faced a 20% increased chance of having a major heart or brain event while hospitalized. 

The study also said cannabis users with cardiovascular risk factors had a 13.9% higher risk of a major adverse heart and brain event. 

“Since 2015, cannabis use in the U.S. has almost doubled, and it is increasing in older adults, therefore, understanding the potential increased cardiovascular risk from cannabis use is important,” said lead study author Dr. Avilash Mondal. “What is unique about our study is that patients who were using tobacco were excluded because cannabis and tobacco are sometimes used together, therefore, we were able to specifically examine cannabis use and cardiovascular outcomes.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 23 states and the District of Columbia permit recreational cannabis use. Fifteen states allow marijuana for medical purposes only. 

One of those 15 states, Ohio, will vote Tuesday on whether to allow for the recreational use of marijuana for those ages 21 and up. 

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