Cannabis and Myocardial Infarction

The medical community is only now beginning to understand that cannabis does indeed affect both heart rate and blood pressure.

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Myocardial infarction, or heart attacks, happen when a part of the heart fails to receive the oxygen it needs to function correctly. The most common cause of heart attack is the result of plaque build-up in the coronary arteries. Once the plaque builds up, a blockage can form causing oxygen deprivation to the tissue of the heart thus resulting in the death of cardiac muscle cells.   

Currently, there are mixed understandings as to whether cannabis can help prevent myocardial infarction versus whether it could be a causation. Right now, we have limited information to draw any conclusions from, but a couple of studies along with some self-reports and surveys are paving the way towards understanding the plant’s effects on the heart.  

The medical community is only now beginning to understand that cannabis does indeed affect both heart rate and blood pressure. Animal studies have helped us learn that cannabis can lower blood pressure, which could present itself as being beneficial and possibly preventing heart disease. Another study involving volunteers showed us that cessation of heavy cannabis use resulted in increased blood pressure as an issue associated with withdrawal.  

There has been a slight but noticeable increase in the amount of myocardial infarctions associated with cannabis use. However, there isn’t enough evidence yet to either support or negate whether the plant is the actual cause. More people are acknowledging their cannabis use in this day and age, so we have to look at this factor along with the possibility that other unhealthy habits like smoking cigarettes or enduring chronic stress could be the main culprits. 

One case examined regarding cannabis use and myocardial infarction was that of a 21 year old male with no conventional cardiovascular risk factors besides being a cigarette smoker. He was an avid cannabis smoker, participated in a sport, and was sent to the hospital because of a sudden heart attack. A thrombus was found in one of his arteries, and doctors believed it had something to do with his cannabis consumption. But, even in this instance, it’s unclear what the exact cause was and how the thrombus or blood clot had formed.  

Besides looking at heart rate and blood pressure, we should also pay attention to what’s traveling to and from the heart, what’s being transported through the blood vessels. It’s possible that cannabinoids may increase platelet adhesiveness or increase carboxyhemoglobin which could potentially result in thrombosis or blood clots. Again, not enough studies can confirm how much truth is behind this, but it’s an issue worth answering. 

Because we know that cannabis can potentially increase heart rate or lower blood pressure, such effects may not be beneficial for anyone living with a preexisting heart condition. If one has coronary heart disease or an increased risk of blood clots, then an increased heart rate due to too much THC in the body could put excess strain on the arteries found in the heart, causing them to rupture can lead clot. If you have a heart condition, it’s important to discuss it with your doctor and examine whether an increased heart rate or lowered blood pressure would be beneficial in your case. 

From what we’ve observed thus far, an increase in potential myocardial infarction lasts up to two hours after consuming the plant via inhalation. After that, it’s less likely to experience heart attack due to consuming the plant. 

As of now, most of our understandings of myocardial infarction linked with cannabis use is deduced from self-reports and surveys. If cannabis is rescheduled and legalized for medical use by the government, more funding can be directed towards understanding the plant’s effects on the heart and other organs of the body. 

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