Pot Smokers May Be Doing Damage to Their Tickers

Researchers find daily users have a 34% greater risk of heart failure; heart attack, stroke risk also up
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 6, 2023 12:32 PM CST
Pot May Raise Risk of Heart Issues
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Cabezonication)

If you think you're avoiding serious health issues by switching from smoking tobacco to smoking pot, you might want to reassess. Two new still-to-be-published studies, set to be presented Nov. 13 at an American Heart Association meeting in Philadelphia, show that people who use marijuana on a daily basis had a 34% greater risk of suffering heart failure than those who never used it, while those who indulge in weed also increased their risk of heart attack or stroke by 20%. "Observational data are strongly pointing to the fact that ... cannabis use at any point in time, be it recreational or medicinal, may lead to the development of cardiovascular disease," Robert Page II, a University of Colorado pharmacy professor who wasn't involved with either study, tells CNN.

In the first study, researchers analyzed nearly 30,000 older marijuana consumers who didn't smoke tobacco and had hospital visits, finding that 14% of those had had a heart attack or stroke, per HealthDay News. In the second study, which looked at 157,000 marijuana users, almost 2% developed heart failure over four years' time, with daily users showing that increased risk of 34%. The study's findings could prove especially problematic for older adults: A 2020 study found the number of seniors 65 and older who smoke pot or consume edibles doubled between 2015 and 2018. Meanwhile, research from earlier this year found that binge drinking and marijuana use in the same demographic spiked 450% from 2015 to 2019.

Still, researchers are careful to warn that they're not sure if marijuana is the actual cause of patients' heart issues, with one marijuana advocate telling HealthDay that "other unhealthy behaviors" of pot users might be the drivers. "Further studies are needed to validate these findings and further explore potential mechanisms," says Dr. Gregg Fonarow, who heads up the Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center. Yakubu Bene-Alhasan, a resident doctor at Baltimore's MedStar Health who led the second study, concurs. "Our results should encourage more researchers to study the use of marijuana to better understand its health implications, especially on cardiovascular risk," he says, per Bloomberg. "Marijuana use isn't without its health concerns." (More discoveries stories.)

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