Smoking Cannabis Associated with Higher Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke, Study Says

The study found that people who are heavy cannabis users have a 25% increased risk of heart attack

<p> Leon Neal/AFP via Getty</p> Stock image of cannabis plant

Leon Neal/AFP via Getty

Stock image of cannabis plant

Smoking cannabis is associated with a higher risk of heart attack and stroke, a new study says.

The study — which was published on Feb. 28 in the Journal of the American Heart Association — was founded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). It looked at data from 430,000 adults ages 18-74 between 2016 to 2020 that had been collected by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the findings, three-fourths of the surveyed individuals admitted to past cannabis consumption, predominantly through smoking, while the remaining one-fourth reported other consumption methods such as vaping or ingestion. Notably, cannabis has legal status for medicinal use in 38 states and for recreational purposes in 24 states.

<p>Getty</p> Person having a heart attack


Person having a heart attack

Related: Kids as Young as Kindergarteners Will Be Allowed to Use Cannabis at School if Michigan Passes New Law

“We know that toxins are released when cannabis is burned, similar to those found in tobacco smoke,” said Abra Jeffers, a data analyst at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and formerly a researcher at the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, where she conducted the study as part of her postdoctoral work.

“We've known for a long time that smoking tobacco is linked to heart disease, and this study is evidence that smoking cannabis appears to also be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States,” Jeffers added. “Cannabis use could be an important, underappreciated source of heart disease.”

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<p>Getty</p> Female hands rolling a marijuana joint


Female hands rolling a marijuana joint

Related: Georgia Will Be First State to Sell Marijuana at Pharmacies

The analysis of the data reveals alarming statistics: heavy cannabis users exhibit a 25% higher likelihood of experiencing a heart attack and a 42% higher likelihood of stroke compared to non-users. Even weekly cannabis use corresponds to a 3% higher risk of heart attack and a 5% higher risk of stroke.

Despite these findings, researchers acknowledge that the precise mechanism underlying the increased risk remains unclear, warranting further investigation.

"This is an important public health finding, particularly given our ongoing efforts to reduce the burden of heart disease in this country,” said David C. Goff, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institutes Division of Cardiovascular Sciences.

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