A study published in the American Journal of Cardiology found that cannabis consumption is not linked to an increased heart attack risk among middle-aged adults, even among those who have used it monthly for over a decade. However, while cannabis itself was not found to pose cardiovascular risks, researchers cautioned that it could be associated with other risk factors like alcohol consumption.
Cannabis consumption is not associated with increased heart attack risk among middle-aged adults, according to data published in the American Journal of Cardiology. The study found that, compared to non-cannabis users, those who consumed cannabis every month over the past year did not face a higher risk of heart attack.
The data was adjusted to account for potential confounding factors on heart attack risk, such as Body Mass Index (BMI), alcohol and tobacco consumption, and physical activity.
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Long-term Cannabis Use and Heart Attack Risk
People who have consumed cannabis every month for the past ten years also did not show an elevated heart attack risk. Additionally, the researchers identified an increased risk of heart attack among former cannabis users who had recently quit. This last finding was described by the investigators as “unexpected.”
The study was conducted by researchers from the University of California at San Diego. They examined the relationship between cannabis consumption and medically diagnosed myocardial infarction (MI)—commonly known as a heart attack—in a nationally representative sample of approximately 10,000 middle-aged individuals (ages 35 to 59).
“In a nationally representative sample of middle-aged American adults, a history of monthly cannabis use for more than one year prior to myocardial infarction was not associated with a subsequent MI diagnosed by a physician, after accounting for heart attack risk factors.
However, considering recent use, the risk was three times higher if no consumption was reported in the month prior. The duration of monthly use before the infarction, including use for more than ten years, also did not show an association,” the authors concluded.
Contradictory Evidence and Future Research
“Evidence regarding adverse effects on cardiovascular health and heart attack risk is contradictory and limited by the ability to accurately quantify consumption, particularly the method of consumption, dosage, and potency. Given the increasing access to cannabis products in the U.S. and around the world, further research is needed, especially longitudinal and experimental studies.”
Beyond Heart Attack Risk – Broader Medical Concerns
Researchers have long been interested in the relationship between cannabinoids and cardiovascular function. This interest is driven by the fact that cannabis can increase blood pressure and heart rate. The medical community has thus been concerned about a potential correlation between heart attacks and cannabis consumption.
However, no consistent data has been found to demonstrate that this poses a danger of increased heart attack risk, making the new research from San Diego welcome news for cannabis users. A 2021 literature review covering 67 studies and published in the American Journal of Medicine found that “marijuana itself does not appear to be independently associated with excessive cardiovascular risk factors.”
Behavioral Factors in Heart Attack Risk
The authors, however, are concerned that heart attack risk could be associated with other unhealthy behaviors, such as alcohol consumption and smoking, which can be detrimental to cardiovascular health.
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Heart Attack Risk
As reported by Johns Hopkins Medicine, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke. Excessive alcohol use can also contribute to cardiomyopathy, a disease affecting heart muscle. However, studies have also shown a link between moderate alcohol consumption and a lower risk of dying from heart disease, indicating that data related to alcohol and cardiovascular health need clarification.
The link between cigarette smoking, heart attack risk, and heart disease in general is fairly certain, suggesting that if cannabis consumers wish to move toward better heart health, the first step should be quitting smoking.
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