Cannabis use linked to increase in heart attack and stroke risk

A recent study involving 430,000 adults in the U.S. has revealed a concerning association between cannabis use and a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. The research, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that more frequent cannabis use, whether through smoking, eating, or vaporizing, was significantly linked to adverse cardiovascular outcomes, even after controlling for tobacco use and other cardiovascular risk factors.

“Despite common use, little is known about the risks of cannabis use and, in particular, the cardiovascular disease risks,” said lead study author Abra Jeffers, Ph.D., a data analyst at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

The analysis, based on survey data collected from 2016 to 2020, revealed several key findings:

Increased Risk: Any cannabis use was independently associated with a higher number of adverse cardiovascular outcomes, including coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, and stroke. Moreover, more frequent use correlated with even higher odds of adverse outcomes, even after controlling for other cardiovascular risk factors.

Daily Use: Both daily and non-daily cannabis users had an increased risk of heart attack compared to non-users, with daily cannabis users showing 25% higher odds of heart attack.

Stroke Risk: The odds of stroke for daily cannabis users were 42% higher compared to non-users, with lower risk among those who used cannabis less than daily.

Younger Adults: Among younger adults at risk for premature cardiovascular disease, cannabis use was significantly associated with a 36% higher combined odds of coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke, regardless of tobacco use.

The study included adults aged 18-74, with about half identifying as female. The majority of participants did not use cannabis at all, while 7% used it less than daily, and 4% were daily users. Among current cannabis users, smoking was reported as the most common form of consumption.

However, the study had limitations, including self-reported cardiovascular conditions and cannabis use, potential recall bias, and the absence of health data measuring baseline lipid profile or blood pressure.

“The findings of this study have very important implications for population health and should be a call to action for all practitioners,” said Robert L. Page II, Pharm.D., M.S.P.H., FAHA, chair of the volunteer writing group for the 2020 American Heart Association Scientific Statement.

“As cannabis use continues to grow in legality and access across the U.S., practitioners and clinicians need to remember to assess cannabis use at each patient encounter in order to have a non-judgmental, shared decision conversation about potential cardiovascular risks and ways to reduce those risks,” Page added.