Recent studies have highlighted a connection between frequent cannabis use and an increased risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session revealed that daily marijuana users were approximately one-third more likely to develop coronary artery disease (CAD) than non-users. CAD is the most common form of heart disease and occurs when arteries supplying blood to the heart become narrowed due to a buildup of cholesterol, which can lead to heart attacks.

In a large-scale study involving health records, researchers found that after adjusting for age, sex, and other cardiovascular risk factors, daily cannabis use was linked to a higher likelihood of CAD. This finding was supported by a genetics-based approach, Mendelian randomization, which suggested a causal relationship between cannabis use disorder and the risk of CAD. The analysis indicated that cannabis use disorder, a recognized psychiatric disorder characterized by frequent marijuana use and dependency, could be causally related to the development of CAD, independent of tobacco and alcohol use.

Additionally, the psychoactive component in cannabis, THC, has been found to cause inflammation in endothelial cells that line blood vessels, as well as atherosclerosis in laboratory mice. This inflammation can contribute to the buildup of plaques that thicken vessel walls, a key factor in heart attacks. Another study found that frequent marijuana smokers were more likely to have their first heart attack before the age of 50, a condition known as a premature heart attack that can significantly raise the risk of further heart complications.

Stanford researchers also noted that a molecule found in soy, genistein, could potentially counteract the harmful cardiovascular effects of THC without inhibiting its beneficial effects such as appetite stimulation, pain relief, and nausea control. This discovery may open new pathways for interventions to prevent or treat heart disease caused by cannabis use.

These findings are crucial given the increasing legalization and recreational use of marijuana. They underscore the importance of public awareness about the potential cardiovascular risks associated with cannabis use. Moreover, healthcare professionals are encouraged to include questions regarding cannabis use when taking patient histories to better assess and monitor heart health.