Smoking Weed May Boost The Risk Of Weakened Heart Muscles

First Posted: Nov 14, 2016 05:50 AM EST

Marijuana has been linked to various positive health benefits. In a recent study, however, researchers have found that smoking weed may increase the risk of temporarily weakened heart muscles.

In a new study presented at the American Heart Association's (AHA) Scientific Sessions 2016, the researchers found that active marijuana use may double the risk of a condition dubbed as stress cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle malfunction that has similar symptoms with a heart attack, as it prevents the heart muscles from pumping blood.

"If you are using marijuana and develop symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath, you should be evaluated by a healthcare provider to make sure you aren't having stress cardiomyopathy or another heart problem," said Dr. Amitoj Singh at St. Luke's University Health Network in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in a news release.

In stress cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle becomes thick, rigid, enlarged or temporarily weak. If the condition worsens, the heart may become weaker and less able to pump blood throughout the body. As a result, it may lead to symptoms such as dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath and chest pain.

The study covered a national data set to show that the risk of this cardiovascular condition doubled among young men who smoked weed. The researchers looked at records from 33,343 people hospitalized with cardiomyopathy from 2003 to 2011 in the United States. Among these people, less than 1 percent or about 210 people admitted being marijuana users.

The findings show that compared to people who do not use marijuana, users who suffered from the heart condition were more likely to be males, younger and have lesser cardiovascular risk (CV) factors. The alarming result is, despite having fewer CV risk factors and being younger, they are more likely to suffer from cardiac arrest.

"Even though these young people had less cardiac risk factors, they still had a high cardiac risk," Singh told CNN.

How does marijuana affect the heart? The researchers found that marijuana causes stress on the heart. According to their findings, cardiomyopathy happens when there is a sudden left ventricular dysfunction. They have linked the role of stress hormones to the sudden occurrence of cardiomyopathy. They found the possibility that cannabis alters the body's response to these hormones.

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