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10 August 2017, 12:53 | Melissa Porter
People who smoke marijuana have a three times greater risk of dying from hypertension
Lead author Barbara Yankey from Georgia State University, said: 'It is important to establish whether any health benefits outweigh the potential health, social and economic risks'. "However, there is little research on the impact of marijuana use on [CV] and cerebrovascular mortality". To get around this problem, the researchers designed a retrospective follow-up study of the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, in which participants aged 20 years and above had been asked if they had ever used marijuana.
There are obvious limitations to the study, especially the way marijuana use was calculated - it is not certain that participants used the drug continuously since they first tried it.
Results suggest marijuana use is more unsafe for heart health than cigarettes, despite certain campaigners insisting cannabis is safer than tobacco. Participants reported the age when they first tried marijuana, and this was subtracted from their current age to calculate the duration of use.
Neither cumulative lifetime nor recent use of marijuana is associated with the incidence of [cardiovascular disease].
We conducted Cox proportional hazards regression analyses to estimate hazard ratios for hypertension, heart disease, and cerebrovascular mortality due to marijuana use.
Experts believe the findings could have particular implications in the USA, where eight states have legalized marijuana and others are thought to be moving towards it.
The researchers also controlled for cigarette use, age, race/ethnicity, alcohol use, diagnosis of hypertension and other relevant variables. Participants who used marijuana and were past-smokers consisted of 16%, and past-smokers and those who smoke only cigarettes were 5% and 4% respectively. The average duration of marijuana use was 11.5 years.
Other studies have also linked smoking marijuana to heart attack risk, stating it is a "rare trigger of myocardial infarction". When compared with non-users, the users of marijuana were 3.42 times more likely to suffer hypertension as a cause of death, and with the addition of each year of use, the risk increased by 1.04 times.
When it comes to heart health, is marijuana any safer for you than tobacco? For each year of marijuana use, the risk of death from hypertension increased by 1.04 times. "Our results suggest a possible risk of hypertension mortality from marijuana use". This is not surprising since marijuana is known to have a number of effects on the [CV] system. "Needless to say, the detrimental effects of marijuana on brain function far exceed that of cigarette smoking".
"We found no association between cannabis and cardiovascular risks [e.g., high blood pressure, higher cholesterol], which may appear at odds with evidence that cannabis use increases risk for cardiovascular complications", the authors wrote. "This indicates that marijuana use may carry even heavier consequences on the cardiovascular system than that already established for cigarette smoking".
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