American Heart Association Warns Cannabis May Damage Cardiovascular Health

The AHA claims there is an "urgent" need for further research, including "carefully designed, prospective short and long-term studies regarding cannabis use and cardiovascular safety."

The American Heart Association (AHA) has released an official statement arguing that smoking cannabis could be harmful to your heart.

The AHA made the announcement earlier this week in the health publication, Circulation, which saw the organisation claim that "people [should] not smoke or vape any substance, including cannabis products, because of the potential harm to the heart, lungs and blood vessels."

The public needs fact-based, valid scientific information about cannabis's effect on the heart and blood vessels. Research funding at federal and state levels must be increased to match the expansion of cannabis use — to clarify the potential therapeutic properties and to help us better understand the cardiovascular and public health implications of frequent cannabis use. University of Colorado Clinical Pharmacology Professor, Robert Page II

The statement came from the AHA's the deputy chief science and medical officer, Dr. Rose Marie Robertson, and was made as part of an examination into existing research on the connection between cannabis and the heart, entitled "Medical Marijuana, Recreational Cannabis, and Cardiovascular Health: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association."

According to the AHA, using cannabis carries the risk that it may "interfere with prescribed medications", or possibly even "trigger cardiovascular conditions or events, such as heart attacks and strokes."

"If people choose to use cannabis for its medicinal or recreational effects, the oral and topical forms, for which doses can be measured, may reduce some of the potential harms," clinical pharmacologist Robert Page II said.  

"It is also vitally important that people only use legal cannabis products because there are no controls on the quality, or the contents of cannabis products sold on the street."

Page also advised that any patients who are planning on using cannabis to consult with their healthcare provider first, as some of the studies analysed by the AHA found that cardiovascular events such as atrial fibrillation and tachycardia—or other rhythm abnormalities—can occur within one hour of consuming THC.

This is due in part to the fact THC can cause en elevated heart rate, increasing the body's need for oxygen. Similarly, certain studies have found that cannabis may disrupt the walls of arteries or contribute to higher blood pressure.

However, Page also noted that existing cardiovascular studies concerning cannabis tended to be "short-term, observational and retrospective studies, which identify trends but do not prove cause and effect."

As a result, the AHA believes that there is an "urgent" need for further research into the topic, including "carefully designed, prospective short and long-term studies regarding cannabis use and cardiovascular safety."

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Hugo Gray
Hugo Gray

Hugo Gray is a Melbourne-based journalist with a body of work that covers a diverse range of topics, including immigration law, sex technology, and now the rapidly expanding cannabis industry.

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