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As legal marijuana becomes more available nationwide for both recreational and medicinal consumption, it’s more relevant than ever to talk about the health impact of regular cannabis use. This growing market has led to cannabis being touted for its potential medical benefits, but it’s important to remember that just because marijuana is now legal in some places doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily good for your heart health. The health risks of smoking cigarettes are well-documented, but you may be wondering how the effects of marijuana compare.

How do cigarettes affect your heart?

As mentioned before, it is known that cigarettes contribute to a veritable litany of negative health effects. If you’re a smoker, you’re causing direct or indirect harm to almost every aspect of your health, and your heart and blood vessels are no exception. When you smoke cigarettes, you’re inhaling a toxic mixture of chemicals which the bloodstream then carries throughout the body. This causes damage to the heart tissue and walls of the blood vessels, as well as plaque buildup which forces your heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body and can cause potentially life-threatening blockages in veins and arteries.

Smoking cigarettes has been tied to cardiovascular disease, peripheral artery disease, heart attack, stroke, and more. Quitting smoking is always a positive step for your health, especially if you have a personal or family history of cardiovascular issues.

How does marijuana affect your heart?

We are still learning about the health impact of cannabis, and there is evidence to suggest that it can benefit some people suffering from issues such as chronic pain or anxiety, but what does it do to your heart? According to significant recent study, the outlook isn’t quite as rosy when it comes to marijuana and cardiovascular health.

Negative health effects of cannabis

When smoked, marijuana’s negative effects overlap significantly with those of cigarettes. While not precisely the same as tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke does contain many of the same chemicals and toxins which contribute to heart disease and cancer, meaning that smoking weed should not be considered to be positive or even necessarily safe.

Because most of the available information on the long-term health effects of cannabis use is from study of people who primarily smoked the drug, it is difficult to accurately parse the effects of pot itself vs the act of inhaling smoke. However, there is reason to believe that even consuming marijuana in edible form is not completely without negative health effects. 

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive component of cannabis, is known to have a number of harmful effects on the cardiovascular system. These include increasing heart rate and forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body, as well as causing atherosclerosis and inflammation in the walls of the blood vessels. There is also evidence which suggests that you are at a significantly higher risk of having chest pain or a heart attack in the hour or so following marijuana use.

Many of these risks are relatively minimal for people who are healthy and have not had any heart issues in the past, but you should be particularly careful if you have had a heart attack or have one of a number of heart health issues. Research has also indicated that for some people with arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat can have their condition worsen as a result of marijuana use. 

Are there any benefits to marijuana use for people with heart disease?

For some people with heart disease, marijuana can be effective in alleviating some of the accompanying symptoms. Some people may find that cannabis does help with easing symptoms such as nausea, pain, and loss of appetite, all of which may be associated with heart disease. However, the negative effects which have already been listed are generally considered to outweigh any potential benefits. It is also important to be mindful of any prescriptions that you are currently taking, as THC can interact harmfully with the chemical compounds in certain medications.

Let’s be honest about cannabis use

It’s important to be fully open and honest about your recreational drug use so that your doctor can give you the best possible health advice. We are continuing to grow in our understanding about the health impact of marijuana, and if you are beginning to feel that your drug habit is becoming a problem you should not feel afraid to reach out for help!