News | Stroke | March 15, 2017

Marijuana Use Associated with Increased Risk of Stroke, Heart Failure

As marijuana legalization spreads, better understanding of side effects is needed

marijuana use, increased risk, stroke, heart failure, ACC 2017 study

March 15, 2017 — Using marijuana raises the risk of stroke and heart failure even after accounting for demographic factors, other health conditions and lifestyle risk factors such as smoking and alcohol use, according to new research. The study is scheduled for presentation at the American College of Cardiology’s 66th Annual Scientific Session, March 17-19 in Washington, D.C.

Coming at a time when marijuana, medically known as cannabis, is on track to become legal for medical or recreational use in more than half of U.S. states, this study sheds new light on how the drug affects cardiovascular health. While previous marijuana research has focused mostly on pulmonary and psychiatric complications, the new study is one of only a handful to investigate cardiovascular outcomes.

“Like all other drugs, whether they’re prescribed or not prescribed, we want to know the effects and side effects of this drug,” said Aditi Kalla, M.D., Cardiology Fellow at the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia and the study’s lead author. “It’s important for physicians to know these effects so we can better educate patients, such as those who are inquiring about the safety of cannabis or even asking for a prescription for cannabis.”

The study drew data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, which includes the health records of patients admitted at more than 1,000 hospitals comprising about 20 percent of U.S. medical centers. Researchers extracted records from young and middle-aged patients —age 18-55 years — who were discharged from hospitals in 2009 and 2010, when marijuana use was illegal in most states.

Marijuana use was diagnosed in about 1.5 percent (316,000) of more than 20 million health records included in the analysis. Comparing cardiovascular disease rates in these patients to disease rates in patients not reporting marijuana use, researchers found marijuana use was associated with a significantly increased risk for stroke, heart failure, coronary artery disease and sudden cardiac death.

Marijuana use was also linked with a variety of factors known to increase cardiovascular risk, such as obesity, high blood pressure, smoking and alcohol use. After researchers adjusted the analysis to account for these factors, marijuana use was independently associated with a 26 percent increase in the risk of stroke and a 10 percent increase in the risk of developing heart failure. 

“Even when we corrected for known risk factors, we still found a higher rate of both stroke and heart failure in these patients, so that leads us to believe that there is something else going on besides just obesity or diet-related cardiovascular side effects,” Kalla said. “More research will be needed to understand the pathophysiology behind this effect.”

Research in cell cultures shows that heart muscle cells have cannabis receptors relevant to contractility, or squeezing ability, suggesting that those receptors might be one mechanism through which marijuana use could affect the cardiovascular system. It is possible that other compounds could be developed to counteract that mechanism and reduce cardiovascular risk, Kalla said. 

Because the study was based on hospital discharge records, the findings may not be reflective of the general population. The study was also limited by the researchers’ inability to account for quantity or frequency of marijuana use, purpose of use (recreational or medical), or delivery mechanism (smoking or ingestion).

Kalla suggested that the growing trend toward legalization of marijuana could mean that patients and doctors will become more comfortable speaking openly about marijuana use, which could allow for better data collection and further insights into the drug’s effects and side effects. 

Read the article "Technologies to Reduce Heart Failure Readmissions"

Watch a video interview with Dr. William Abraham of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center on heart failure technologies from TCT 2016.

For more information: www.acc.org

Related Content

A patient who received HeartMate III LVAD system at ACC.18. The HeartMate 3 was the topic of of the the key late-breaking trials at #ACC18

A patient who received the HeartMate III LVAD system showing off his external battery pack. He served as a patient ambassador in the Abbott booth at ACC.18. The HeartMate III, with its magnetic levitated pump, showed a big reduction in clotting over previous LVADs in a key late-breaking trial at this year's conference.

Feature | ACC | March 27, 2018 | Dave Fornell
There were several notable presentations of new data on cardiovascular technologies at the recent 2018 American Colle
Drug Stops Dangerous Bleeding in Patients Taking Factor Xa Inhibitors

Connolly 

News | ACC | March 22, 2018
March 22, 2018 — The experimental drug...
Videos | ACC | March 21, 2018
DAIC Editor Dave Fornell takes a tour of some of the most interesting new technologies on the expo floor at
ACC 2018 Late-Breaking Trials Announced
News | ACC | March 21, 2018
Here is a list of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) 2018 annual meeting late-breaking clinical trials presente
Inhaled Therapy Ineffective in Difficult-to-Treat Heart Failure at ACC 2018.

Image from presentation, "Inorganic Nitrite Delivery to Improve Exercise Capacity in HFpEF: The INDIE-HFpEF Trial," Borlaug

News | ACC | March 20, 2018
March 20, 2018 — Four weeks of treatment with a novel inhaled medication failed to improve exercise capacity, daily a
More Deaths, Strokes Seen with Perioperative Beta Blocker One Year After Surgery

Image from presentation, "1-Year outcomes of perioperative beta-blockade in patients undergoing noncardiac surgery," Devereaux 

News | ACC | March 20, 2018
March 20, 2018 — During the 12 months after undergoing noncardiac surgery, patients with or at risk for heart disease
Trial for Gout Drug Meets Primary Endpoint, Raises Safety Concerns, image shows a CT scan showing gout in the knees.
News | ACC | March 20, 2018
March 20, 2018 — Febuxostat, a gout dr...
Canakinumab Doesn’t Prevent Prediabetes from Progressing to Diabetes according to a late-breaking study at ACC 2018.
News | ACC | March 20, 2018
March 20, 2018 — The anti-inflammatory...
Dabigatran Reduces Major Cardiovascular Complications in Patients With Myocardial Injury after Noncardiac Surgery
News | ACC | March 20, 2018
March 20, 2018 — Treatment with the blood-thinning drug dabigatran significantly reduced the risk of death, heart att
Statins May Bring Benefits at Time of Treatment for Heart Attack, Angina

Image from presentation, "Statins Evaluation in Coronary Procedures and Revascularization," Berwanger 

News | ACC | March 20, 2018
March 20, 2018 — Getting a large dose of a statin did not have an impact on major adverse cardiac events among a broa
Overlay Init