During the election on November 8, four more states (California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts) have voted to legalize recreational and medical marijuana, while an additional four states voted to legalize medical marijuana (Arkansas, Florida, Montana, North Dakota). But the American Heart Association urges recreational users to use caution: studies have linked marijuana usage with poor heart health.
A condition called stress cardiomyopathy is characterized by sudden weakening of the muscles in the heart that prevent it from pumping. Researchers from St. Luke’s University hospital are intrigued by various cases of stress cardiomyopathy related to marijuana.
In the study, St. Luke’s University joined two groups of people: marijuana users, and marijuana non-users. Between the two groups, they found some interesting differences:
First, the marijuana using group had a higher concentration of young males. This is odd because cardiomyopathy is more common in older females.
Second, the non-marijuana using group was more likely to have risk factors of stress cardiomyopathy, such as acute stress, hypertension, diabetes, migraines and hyperthyroidism. The group that does use marijuana had less of these risk factors.
“Even though these young people had less cardiac risk factors, they still had high cardiac risk.” Said Dr. Amitoj Singh, who headed the project. “There have been many reports of heart attacks, strokes and (two cases of stress cardiomyopathy) that have been linked to marijuana.”
Dr. Ann Bolger, from the San Francisco School of Medicine was quoted in a recent CNN article saying, “It does give me some very appropriate worry that exposure to (marijuana) might not be as benign as some people seem to think.”
Dr. Singh still acknowledges the medical benefits of marijuana use, especially for treatments like chemotherapy. Singh and Bolger simply want to draw attention to the potential harm of recreational use until more detailed research can be conducted.