Recent American Heart Association Research Deserves Attention of Marijuana Users


Two studies were presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions which need further study, but should also get the attention of a growing population using daily marijuana. Both pieces of research highlighted the relationship of heart failure, heart attacks, and strokes in marijuana use.

Convened annually, the American Heart Association (AHA) hosts the highly reputable Scientific Sessions where the latest research in cardiovascular science is presented to key thought leaders, practitioners, and researchers. The 2023 AHA Scientific Sessions were held November 11-13 in Philadelphia.

The first presentation was entitled, Daily marijuana use is associated with incident heart failure. The research was conducted by the National Institutes of Health in a large population study.

At baseline, participants were free from heart failure as documented through medical screenings. Over a four-year period, more than 150,000 participants were tracked with a record of the frequency of their marijuana use.

The study involved more than 150,000 adults in the U.S. who were free from heart failure when they enrolled in the research program. Participants were surveyed on the frequency of their marijuana use and were followed for nearly four years.

Almost 2% of participants, or 2,958 people, developed heart failure. Individuals who used marijuana daily had a 34% increased risk of developing heart failure compared to non-users, even after adjusting for various risk factors.

A secondary analysis of this data suggested that marijuana use may contribute to this significant increase in heart failure through the development of coronary artery disease.

The second major research presented at the AHA Scientific Sessions of 2023 was entitled, Increased risk of major adverse cardiac and cerebrovascular events in elderly non-smokers who use cannabis. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, one of 12 agencies within the US Department of Health and Human Services, was the source data analyzed from the 2019 National Inpatient Sample. Specifically,  cannabis use in older adults was reviewed in relation to cardiovascular risk factors.

This study that will be presented at the conference shows that people older than 65, with any combination of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol who also use marijuana, but not tobacco, have a statistically significant risk for a major heart or brain event, compared to people who never used the drug.

The results demonstrated at least a 20% increased risk of heart attack, stroke, cardiac arrest, or arrhythmia for participants with the data being described as “significant” in the body of research emerging in cannabis use.

In a statement issued by Robert L. Page II, PharmD, MSPH, chair of the volunteer writing group for the 2020 American Heart Association Scientific Statement: Medical Marijuana, Recreational Cannabis, and Cardiovascular Health, the warning was unmistakable. “Together with the results of these two research studies, the cardiovascular risks of cannabis use are becoming clearer and should be carefully considered and monitored by health care professionals and the public,” cautioned Dr. Page.