cannabis bud and heart
Do people need to worry about cannabis-induced heart attacks?

According to the World Health Organization, the leading cause of death in the world is ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease or coronary heart disease.  

It’s a disease that causes arteries to narrow, which leads to a drop in the amount of oxygen that reaches the muscles of the heart.

The drop in oxygen levels makes it more and more likely to have a heart attack.

It’s a scary disease, and it’s trending in humans, but is less likely in low-income countries where ischemic heart disease ranks just third for leading causes of death.

For Americans, ischemic heart disease is the number one cause of death annually.

Why is it that Americans are more likely to die from a heart condition?

Many point to a combination of lifestyle and diet.

In America, people’s health is suffering in a number of ways. The majority of the population is overweight or obese, and many Americans are eating poorly – all the wrong foods and few of the right ones. Not to mention all the stress that can wreak havoc on heart health.

Add it all up and it’s no wonder that the leading cause of death for Americans is related to heart problems.

Lifestyle changes are a critical factor here, but how about cannabis? Could it be part of the solution as well?

Cannabis and Heart Health, According to Science

cannabis and heart health
The current science on cannabis and heart health all seems to point in the same direction.

In 2018, the Heart Rhythm Society published the "first ever in-human study of more than one million patients [to assess] arrhythmic effects of marijuana after a heart attack."

Essentially, the study found no negative connection between cannabis and cardiac health:

According to new research, smoking marijuana may not be associated with an increased risk of ventricular fibrillation (VF) and ventricular tachycardia (VT) following an acute myocardial infarction (AMI), or heart attack. The study also reported that marijuana users had a decreased risk of atrial fibrillation (AFib) and in-hospital mortality. 

What's more, a 2015 study that appeared in the Journal of Disease and Global Health found that frequent cannabis consumers had smaller waist sizes than those who don’t consume or who were past consumers.

In 2011, a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology concluded that “the prevalence of obesity is lower in cannabis users than in nonusers.”

Since obesity and large waist size are directly linked to heart disease, it seems that cannabis may improve heart health simply by keeping body weight down.

Another study in The American Journal of Medicine reported similar findings regarding cannabis use and smaller waist sizes.

More importantly, the researchers of that study also found that cannabis users have a lower level of fasting insulin and insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance can raise the risk of heart disease. According to a study that appeared in the Journal of Clinical Investigationthe researchers concluded that “insulin resistance is…a multifaceted syndrome that increases significantly the risk for cardiovascular disease.”

Essentially, there seems to be significant evidence cannabis use is good for your heart as a preventative health measure.

However, these findings don't necessarily mean that everyone should immediately start smoking cannabis to improve the health of their heart or that it will automatically decrease their chances of developing a serious heart condition.

Moreover, people who already have a heart condition may want to tread cautiously here.

Doctors’ Advice on Cannabis and Heart Health

doctors advice
You don't want to hide anything from your doctor, including cannabis.

For reference, a few doctors and cannabis specialists offered their general guidelines for keeping our hearts healthy when consuming cannabis.

Many of the doctors and cannabis specialists Green Flower consulted suggested full-spectrum, CBD-dominant as the best product profile to look for when using cannabis as a tool for improved health.

Dr. Joe D. Goldstrich, MD, said that CBD “by virtue of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, may hold the greatest potential to modulate atherosclerosis and provide improved heart health.”

Echoing the sentiment, Dr. Rachel Knox recommended microdosing CBD-heavy tinctures “that include a rich variety of terpenes including beta-caryophyllene.”

She recommended the terpene beta-caryophyllene for several reasons:

CBD-rich products are one thing, but what about THC-dominant products? Where do they factor in for people concerned about heart health?

Dr. Knox stressed the importance of accurately dosing THC. She recommended microdosing; start small and go slow if you’re not used to cannabis.

For more experienced cannabis consumers, edibles are an option, although, as she pointed out, ingested THC is “about 10 times more euphorigenic and intoxicating” when it converts to 11-OH THC in the liver.

Dr. Knox also suggested edibles should not include sugar, artificial sweeteners, grains, dairy, and other pro-inflammatory products as they would be counterproductive.

Minimizing Cannabis Side Effects and Risks for Heart Patients

cannabis heart health
Although cannabis is generally quite safe, many patients need extra guidance.

Whichever form of cannabis that patients turn to, proper dosing is integral to using cannabis for its heart-healing and heart-preserving benefits.

By starting with low doses, patients can aim for the desired effect while minimizing any unwanted side effects.

One of those side effects includes how high-dose CBD impacts the body’s ability to metabolize many pharmaceuticals.

According to a study in Life Sciences, CBD most potently inhibits certain enzymes in your liver, causing a lot of medications to hang around in your body longer than intended, including blood thinners like warfarin.

We see similar interactions with certain medications when consuming grapefruit, and it basically means you might have to work with your doctor to lower the dosage if you want to take CBD-rich products in conjunction with your current pharmaceuticals.

Aside from CBD versus THC, what other factors should heart patients consider when choosing cannabis?

Smoke inhalation, for instance, comes with effects like increased blood pressure, stroke, and even heart attack in some cases.

Harvard-trained MD Dr. Jordan Tishler recommends people avoid these risks altogether by choosing vaporization over smoking.

He wants people to remain safe when consuming cannabis, adding, “the key to safely using cannabis for people with any of these cardiac illnesses is acknowledging the risk and monitoring them closely.”

Though each of the doctors expressed their belief that cannabis consumption can improve heart health, they were also careful to remind everyone to speak with their own doctor and inform them of their life choices.

The Future of Cannabis and Heart Health

While cannabis shows positive signs as a tool for preventative health, current heart patients need to approach it with care.

Hopefully, as cannabis gains legitimacy as an effective medicine, we will be able to establish clearer guidelines for all physicians and their patients.

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