Heart disease is the leading killer of Americans, regardless of gender or ethnicity. The most common form of heart disease, coronary artery disease (CAD), affects over 18 million people in this country. While it’s true there’s a certain unavoidable genetic component; small lifestyle changes can mitigate many of the risk factors associated with heart disease.
It’s well known that smoking tobacco can drastically increase one’s risk of coronary disease, but what about smoking cannabis? Does marijuana increase your chances of getting CAD, or could it actually help prevent heart disease?
What Is Coronary Disease?
Coronary heart disease occurs when the arteries responsible for supplying oxygen to your heart become damaged. Typically, this happens when a buildup of a combination of cholesterol, fatty deposits, calcium, and cellular waste, known as plaque, accumulates in the artery causing it to become stiff. This plaque buildup not only damages the artery itself, but it also reduces the amount of oxygen that these arteries would normally funnel towards the heart.
Unlike other potentially deadly diseases, coronary heart disease doesn’t happen overnight. It can take decades to develop, and symptoms may go unnoticed, which is why it’s important to check in with your physician regularly.
Symptoms Of Coronary Disease
The most common symptom of coronary heart disease is angina, which is described as a tight feeling or buildup of pressure in the chest, typically in conjunction with pain. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, light-headedness, discomfort in the arms. For many people, the first sign of coronary heart disease is a full-blown heart attack, so it’s essential to take risk prevention steps as early as possible, even if you don’t feel like anything is wrong.
How To Prevent/Treat Coronary Disease
Treatment for coronary disease will vary depending on how severe the condition presents. In the most extreme cases, treatment may be surgical. Coronary bypass surgery involves navigating blood flow around the plaque blocked artery by surgically connecting a blood vessel from another part of the body above and below the blockage. Other surgical options include placing a stent into the artery through a catheter in order to improve blood flow.
In less severe cases, certain types of medications such as aspirin, cholesterol-altering medicines, beta-blockers, and nitro-glycerin can treat coronary heart disease.
When it comes to prevention, it’s all about lifestyle changes. Reducing your stress, maintaining a healthy weight, keeping cholesterol levels in check with a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and avoiding nicotine all go a long way in helping reduce the risk of heart disease.
Does Cannabis Use Cause Coronary Disease?
Smoking tobacco is one of the worst things you can do for your heart, but what about cannabis?
Because of the historical legal restrictions around cannabis, we lack enough research to decisively determine how cannabis interacts with the heart. However, THC is known to increase heart rates, which may increase the risk of a heart attack in patients already suffering from coronary disease.
Can Cannabis Mend Symptoms Of Coronary Disease?
Cannabinoids have complicated interactions with the human body, and we’re still learning more about them. While it’s unlikely that we will discover that marijuana is a magical cure for heart disease, the non-intoxicating cannabinoid CBD may have some effects that could help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Studies indicate that CBD could be effective at reducing stress and anxiety. Since stress is a leading contributor to heart attack and also leads to high blood pressure, stress reduction can help keep the heart healthy. CBD is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties. While these are usually considered in the context of pain management, this effect could also reduce the inflammation of blood vessels, helping to improve blood and oxygen flow.
Before starting a CBD regimen, be sure to consult your physician, as the cannabinoid may have negative interactions with your current heart medications.