Before Smoking Cannabis, You Should Know About This Heart Health Risk

There’s plenty of scientific evidence proving the many health benefits of cannabis, but this plant could also leave some of its users with one potentially fatal side effect: Heart failure.

According to a recent co-study from Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, people who smoke cannabis are five times more likely to have a heart attack within the first hour of smoking the plant than non-smokers. This risk decreases from five to 1.7 times in the second hour and is completely normalized after two hours—but this immediate bump is concerning, to say the least.

The study reveals that smoking weed affects the heart in the same way sexual intercourse does. Dr. Murray Mittleman, the study's director, managed to produce several hypotheses for the matter. Dr. Mittleman suggested that lifestyle choices surrounding cannabis users can make major impacts on their heart health. The risks of cannabis-related heart failure are increased due to other lifestyle conditions like smoking cigarettes, being overweight, and neglecting exercise.

Even more frighteningly, Mittleman notes that the older you get, the more impact cannabis has on your chances of heart failure: "As with any risk factor for heart attack, or for heart disease in general, the risks become more pertinent as we grow older," Mittleman says. "Marijuana use is no exception."

Despite the general consensus that cannabis provides feelings of relaxation, it can also lead to depression, paranoia, and anxiety. Along with this sad cocktail of feelings, some users will experience the physical symptoms associated with them, including increased heart rate, tremors, and breathing irregularities. The study proposed that the evocation of these physical symptoms could be the root of the heart attack risk.

Another theory outlines an even scarier route to a heart attack: plaque. Cannabis can disturb cholesterol plaque lining our arteries, which could very easily reach the heart and cause cardiac arrest.

If you're a cannabis user, consider speaking about it with your doctor.