Medical Marijuana And Heart Diseases- What You Need To Know
I. About Heart Diseases
Heart disease affects 16.5 million Americans and is a leading cause of death. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, over 600,000 people die of heart disease in the US, which means 1 in every 4 deaths. The most common type of heart disease is coronary heart disease, which develops when the major blood vessels of the heart become damaged. Cholesterol plaques in the arteries and inflammation are thought to be the underlying problem in most cases of coronary heart diseases. Coronary artery diseases are further divided into: angina, myocardial infarction (heart attack) and cardiac arrest.
The typical signs of symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain or discomfort, which can irradiate in the arms, neck, and jaw; shortness of breath, palpitations, nausea, lightheadedness or cold sweats.
There are a number of risk factors for heart diseases. While some cannot be modified (such as age, family history, race), other risk factors can be prevented: obesity, tobacco, and alcohol use, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, excessive stress and depression.
II The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) — An Overview
Medical marijuana has many effects on the human body because we have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that marijuana’s cannabinoids can interact with.
- Endocannabinoid receptors (the main ones are CB1 and CB2). CB1 and CB2 are found throughout the body, including the heart tissue.
- The endocannabinoids AEA and 2-AG, which are THC- like molecules produced naturally in the body. Like THC, these endocannabinoids activate the cannabinoid receptors.
- Two major enzymes (FAAH and MAGL), which break down the endocannabinoids.
ECS promotes health when in balance: it modulates pain, inflammation, mood, appetite, stress response and more. As you will see below, ECS is important for heart health, too. However, this system can become imbalanced and dysfunctions of ECS are associated with certain diseases.
IIi. The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) & The Heart
In normal conditions, ECS promotes a healthy heart, and CB1 and CB2 receptors are found in the heart tissue and blood vessels. When CB1 receptors are activated, they cause low blood pressure and decrease the heart rate. The key role of CB2 receptors is to decrease inflammation. Overall, the ECS seems to protect the heart from injuries, regulate the heart rhythm and the blood pressure.
On the other hand, a dysfunctional ECS is associated with heart diseases. For example, CB1 receptors seem to be overactivated, and high levels of endocannabinoids (THC-like compounds made in the body) are found in cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks, and strokes.
Chronic marijuana use as seen in marijuana smokers is also detrimental and further stimulates the ECS, being associated with serious side effects like sudden cardiac death and abnormal heart rhythm.
IV. Research on Medical Marijuana and CBD For Heart Diseases
Based on a 2019 research study, scientists believe that medical marijuana has the potential to help many conditions. However, they also understand that this herb can cause side effects affecting the heart, mainly due to the fact that THC activates CB1 receptors, which are already problematic in heart disease. Based on current research, marijuana should not be used in individuals with heart diseases. Furthermore, marijuana can interfere with heart medications. Recreational marijuana is also detrimental to heart health.
On the other hand, CBD alone may offer benefits to manage heart diseases. A 2010 study published in the “Journal of The American College of Cardiology” concluded that CBD has therapeutic potential to manage complications of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases because reduces oxidative stress, inflammation and has protective effects on the heart tissue. There is some research suggesting that CBD could help manage high blood pressure. More details in this article.
Bottom line: more research is needed to further understand how CBD and medical marijuana work in individuals who have heart conditions.
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