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Researchers reveal the cardiovascular risks of marijuana use

individuals who consumed cannabis daily faced a 25% higher risk of heart attack and a 42% higher risk of stroke compared to non-users. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

Researchers at UC San Francisco have highlighted alarming similarities between the cardiac risks associated with smoking marijuana and those of smoking tobacco.

Their study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association underscores the potential health hazards posed by the increasing prevalence of cannabis use across the United States.


The study revealed concerning statistics: individuals who consumed cannabis daily faced a 25% higher risk of heart attack and a 42% higher risk of stroke compared to non-users.

Dose–response correlation graph of the magnitude of the OR for the association between days of cannabis use per month and adverse cardiovascular outcomes. (CREDIT: Journal of the American Heart Association)

Dr. Salomeh Keyhani, the senior author of the study and a professor of medicine at UCSF, emphasized the escalating popularity of cannabis, particularly following its legalization. In 2019, approximately 4% of individuals reported daily cannabis use, marking a significant surge from 2002, when only 1.3% reported such usage.


Dr. Keyhani cautioned, "Cannabis use is on the rise while conventional tobacco smoking is declining. Over time, cannabis use alone could emerge as a significant risk factor for heart-related issues."

The research team delved into data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to scrutinize the link between cannabis use and adverse cardiovascular outcomes.


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Their analysis encompassed coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke among both the general adult population and those who had never smoked tobacco.

Among over 434,000 respondents, approximately 4% reported daily cannabis use, while 7.1% reported non-daily use. Notably, nearly 89% had abstained from marijuana in the preceding month.


The study identified a clear association between cannabis consumption and adverse cardiovascular outcomes, with risks escalating in tandem with usage frequency.

Moreover, the researchers examined outcomes for individuals who had never smoked or vaped tobacco, revealing that cannabis use alone correlated with heightened risks of stroke and combined heart ailments, including coronary heart disease and heart attack.

Dr. David C. Goff, the director of the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, underscored the significance of these findings for public health efforts aimed at reducing heart disease burdens.


Despite the mounting evidence, individuals who use cannabis often refrain from disclosing their habits to healthcare providers due to misconceptions regarding its safety relative to tobacco.

Dr. Keyhani highlighted the challenge in altering these perceptions, particularly given the substantial commercialization of cannabis and its portrayal as benign or even beneficial. While acknowledging the therapeutic potential of cannabis, Dr. Keyhani stressed the imperative of acknowledging its significant cardiovascular risks.

As cannabis gains legal and societal acceptance, it is crucial to prioritize public awareness and education regarding its potential health implications, particularly in the realm of cardiovascular health.


Co-authors: Additional UCSF co-authors include Stanton Glantz, PhD, and Amy L. Byers, PhD, MPH.  

Funding: NHLBI 1R01HL130484-01A1 and National Cancer Institute (grant T32 CA113710).

For more science news stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


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