Once upon a time smoking marijuana was considered to be completely detrimental to your health and to be avoided at all costs. Now medical experts are beginning to backtrack a little.
A new study involving more than one million patients has demonstrated that marijuana users actually had a decreased risk of both atrial fibrillation (AFib) and in-hospital mortality following a heart attack. Results of which were presented at the Heart Rhythm Society’s 39th Annual Scientific Sessions last month.
According to federal data, between the years of 2002 and 2014, there’s been a staggering 455% increase in the consumption of marijuana among people in the U.S. aged between 55-64. For those aged 64 and over, there’s been a 333% increase. It’s also estimated that as many as one in eight Americans smoke marijuana.
While previous studies have demonstrated a link between cannabis use and increased heart rate and blood pressure, not much is known about the effects of heart arrhythmias such as VT and VF. VT is a fast but regular heartbeat that may lead to VF which is a fast and irregular beat that could cause sudden cardiac arrest.
The study involved comparing in-hospital outcomes with clinical profiles in both marijuana users and non-marijuana users between the years of 1994 to 2013. All patients were aged between 18-70 years old and all had a primary diagnosis of AMI.
A total of 3,854 patients out of 1,273,897 who were admitted with AMI were marijuana users. The study also revealed that most of these patients were young males. Of those experiencing cardiac arrest of VT/VF, 9.7% were marijuana users and 9.7% weren’t. Of those that had AFib, 4.5% were marijuana users while 8.7% were non-users. The figures for death were 4% and 6% respectively.
“The legalization of marijuana is spreading quickly across the U.S. resulting in more people using it, but we still don’t know the true, long-term impact it has on one’s heart health,” says Christine Tomkins MD, senior author of the study and assistant professor of cardiology medicine at University of Colorado School of Medicine. “Our study is the first to examine the relationship between marijuana use after a heart attack and various arrhythmias and we did not see a negative connection.”
In order to better understand the link between marijuana and arrhythmias in chronic ischemic heart disease patients future studies are needed, note the authors. They also confirm the need to understand how marijuana affects the heart as the number of users over the age of 50 is increasing significantly.