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Smoking or vaping cannabis could trigger heart attacks and palpitations

The American Heart Association is warning people that smoking or vaping cannabis could create an increased risk for long-term heart-health problems.

In some cases, inhaling the substance could trigger a heart attack or palpitations, AHA doctors said in a new report based on previous research.

That’s because THC, the main psychoactive component in cannabis that gives users a high, can cause the arteries to constrict and blood pressure to rise, leading to such a response.

And previous research suggests cannabis smokers and vape users who inhale the substance regularly could develop carbon-monoxide buildup in the lungs, which may contribute to permanent heart damage.

This evidence led AHA doctors to advise people to abstain from cannabis smoking and vaping if possible.

Edible cannabis could be a safer alternative for heart health

The doctors who penned the statement said cannabis users should weigh the risks of using the substance with its potential benefits.

For some, cannabis use provides relief from chronic pain, anxiety, and depression.

The authors also said certain forms of cannabis use could be less harmful than smoking or vaping when it comes to heart health.

“If people choose to use cannabis for its medicinal or recreational effects, the oral and topical forms, for which doses can be measured, may reduce some of the potential harms,” clinical pharmacologist and lead statement author Dr. Robert Page II said in a statement.

Page added that cannabis users should stay away from black-market products and only purchases legal cannabis because its quality is regulated.

Research hasn’t found a direct link between cannabis use and heart problems

There were caveats to the doctors’ suggestions.

The studies they cited throughout their paper were short-term and used self-reported data, so experts couldn’t conclude whether cannabis use directly causes heart attacks and palpitations.

For that reason, Page said there’s an “urgent” need for more in-depth and conclusive studies on potential links between cannabis use and heart health.

Additionally, some research has shown CBD, one of the non-psychoactive components in cannabis, could potentially be beneficial for the heart due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

The American Heart Association doctors said people who weight the risks and benefits of cannabis use with their doctors.

Increased Heart Rate

Updated on January 25, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

Whether you’re taking medical marijuana, over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs, it’s essential to know the potential side effects of your medication. One of the possible side effects of medical weed your physician should discuss with you is an increased heart rate.

Possible Side Effects of Medical Weed

When you begin using medical marijuana, you may experience a range of side effects, such as red eyes or hunger. However, in some instances, your physician may recommend medical cannabis because of its side effects. Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, for example, may rely on medical pot as an appetite stimulant.

As a patient of a licensed and compassionate medical marijuana doctor, you can trust they’re weighing the side effects of medical weed against the benefits. In their role as a practitioner, they want to create a treatment plan that offers more advantages than disadvantages.

How Does Medical Weed Cause an Increased Heart Rate?

Like other potential side effects of medical weed, cannabinoids are the cause. More than 100 different cannabinoids are present in cannabis, but the two primary ones are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Researchers believe THC is responsible for increasing users’ heart rates.

When you take medical marijuana, THC expands your blood vessels. For patients with high blood pressure, this reaction is a positive, as it lowers their blood pressure. When your heart recognizes this sudden change in pressure, however, it begins to pump faster.

Signs of an Increased Heart Rate From Medical Cannabis

The most noticeable symptom of an increased heart rate is feeling like your heart is racing or pounding — if you’ve ever consumed too much caffeine, the experience is almost identical. Measure your heart rate by taking your pulse — a normal range for adults is 60 to 100 beats per minute (BPM).

Long-Term Side Effects of an Increased Heart Rate

An increased heart rate from medical marijuana wears off with your medication but can last up to three hours. While a constant elevated heart rate, called tachyarrhythmia, does pose risks to your health, a brief boost due to exercise or medical weed does not.

Having concerns over this side effect is understandable, especially if your cardiovascular health isn’t the best. That’s why it’s critical to meet with your medical marijuana physician and cardiologist to discuss your use of medical cannabis, as well as how you could prevent this side effect.

How to Avoid and Manage an Increased Heart Rate From Medical Marijuana

A few techniques for managing medical marijuana-induced heart rate increases include:

  • Choose Strains With Low THC: Because THC increases heart rates, find an indica strain with a low-THC, high-CBD content. Your local dispensary should have these available, as many patients prefer CBD’s ability to limit the psychoactive effects of THC.
  • Adopt a Micro-Dosing Schedule: For patients who are just starting to use medical marijuana, micro-dosing helps your body adjust to medical weed. It also prevents you from consuming too much medical pot in a short period, since you wait 20 to 30 minutes between doses.

Before modifying your treatment, it’s essential you meet with your physician.

Talk to Your Medical Marijuana Doctor About Your Increased Heart Rate

While an increased heart rate often makes patients nervous about using medical pot, many medical cannabis physicians feel the pros of medical marijuana outweigh this potential con. Plus, they’ll work to alleviate this side effect if you experience it. No matter what kind of side effect you’re experiencing from cannabis, it’s critical to schedule an appointment with your medical marijuana doctor to talk about it.

Learn why some cannabis users experience increased heart rate as a side effect and how to combat side effects to get the most out of your cannabis.