New studies presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia highlight the potential risks associated with using marijuana — made from dried cannabis leaves — in older adults, including an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure.
A study revealed that elderly people who did not smoke tobacco but used marijuana had a higher risk of heart attack and stroke when they were hospitalized.
Additionally, people who used this psychoactive drug from the cannabis plant daily were 34% more likely to develop heart failure. These findings are consistent with the American Heart Association’s 2020 Scientific Statement that highlighted the potential cardiovascular risks associated with the drug’s use.
Robert Page II, chair of the American Heart Association’s 2020 Scientific Statement volunteer writing group, emphasized that observational data strongly suggest that marijuana use, whether recreational or medicinal, can lead to the development of cardiovascular disease.
He pointed out that using marijuana can increase the concentration of carbon monoxide and tar in the bloodstream, similar to smoking, both of which have been linked to heart problems.
Cannabis use is increasing among older adults, with a significant increase reported between 2015 and 2018. A separate study found a 450% increase in binge drinking and past-month cannabis use among people over the age of 65 between 2015 and 2019.
Additionally, nearly three in ten users of this drug develop marijuana use disorder, a condition characterized by cravings, irritability, restlessness, and difficulties with mood and sleep when they try to quit.
Another key finding is that people with chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol, may be more susceptible to the negative impact of marijuana use on their cardiovascular health. High blood pressure and high cholesterol were identified as key predictors of major adverse cardiac and cerebrovascular events in users of these dried leaves.
Studies show that while acute cannabis use can lead to a drop in blood pressure, chronic, long-term use is associated with an increase in blood pressure, which is a risk factor for various cardiovascular diseases.
In a separate study, researchers followed nearly 160,000 adults for about four years to investigate the effect of marijuana use on the risk of developing heart failure. Daily cannabis use was associated with a 34% increased risk of heart failure compared to those who reported never using cannabis.
These studies add to the growing body of research highlighting potential health effects, particularly cardiovascular risk, associated with cannabis use.
They emphasize the need for more research to better understand these health effects, especially in the context of the elderly and people with chronic conditions.
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