Two recent studies investigated the connections between cannabis use and developing certain heart conditions.
On November 6th, 2023, the American Heart Association (AHA) released results from two studies from different research groups on the risk of cannabis use and developing heart issues, particularly heart attack and heart failure (1). The two studies were poster abstracts to be presented in AHA’s Scientific Sessions meeting on November 11-13 (1).
In one study, researchers tracked 156,999 individuals for almost four years (1). At the start of the study, the individuals did not have heart failure, and by the end of the study, an analysis stated that compared to those who never used cannabis, individuals who used cannabis daily had a 34% increased risk of developing heart failure (1).
“Prior research shows links between marijuana use and cardiovascular disease like coronary artery disease, heart failure and atrial fibrillation, which is known to cause heart failure,” said lead study author Yakubu Bene-Alhasan, MD, MPH (1). “Marijuana use isn’t without its health concerns, and our study provides more data linking its use to cardiovascular conditions. Our results should encourage more researchers to study the use of marijuana to better understand its health implications, especially on cardiovascular risk.”
One limitation in this study, the AHA article stated, was that the method of cannabis ingestion was not specified in the study (1).
In a second study, researchers analyzed hospital inpatient data from 28,835 individuals age 65 and older who were split into two groups—those who used cannabis and those who did not—while excluding tobacco users (1). The analysis found that of the individuals who used cannabis and already had cardiovascular risk factors, 13.9% had a major heart or brain event while hospitalized, compared to those who did not use cannabis (1).
Two factors made this study distinct from previous ones. “Since 2015, cannabis use in the US has almost doubled, and it is increasing in older adults, therefore, understanding the potential increased cardiovascular risk from cannabis use is important,” said lead study author Avilash Mondal, MD (1). “What is unique about our study is that patients who were using tobacco were excluded because cannabis and tobacco are sometimes used together, therefore, we were able to specifically examine cannabis use and cardiovascular outcomes.”
One limitation of the study, the AHA article explained, was that because the data came from such a large database, possible coding errors and variances might have occurred (1).