Recreational Marijuana and Heart Health

Stephen Andrews
25 Aug 2023

Recreational marijuana use has not been associated with increased risk of heart attack, according to newly-gathered data published in the American Journal of Cardiology. Still, for the sake of sticking to a heart-healthier marijuana consumption, you might want to crossfade with alcohol less often, and perhaps also avoid mixing weed and tobacco.

Researchers with the University of California, San Diego took on the task to assess the relationship between marijuana use and physician-diagnosed myocardial infarction (MI) in a representative group of nearly 10,000 subjects aged 35-59. The data was gathered between 2009 and 2018. 

According to the study, active weed users (those who had consumed on a monthly basis for the past year) did not possess a higher risk of heart attack compared to non-users. Along with weed use, researchers also looked at other factors, such as the person’s physical activity, body weight, alcohol and tobacco habits. At no greater risk were also those who reported consistent monthly marijuana use for the past decade.

Still, There Was One “Unexpected” Finding…

What surprised everyone is that a fraction of former consumers who had recently stopped using marijuana were actually at an increased risk of heart attack

“In a representative sample of middle-aged US adults, a history of monthly cannabis use for more than a year before a myocardial infarction was not linked to a subsequent physician-diagnosed MI, after accounting for cardiovascular risk factors,” the authors noted. “However, when considering recent use, the odds were three times greater if no use was reported in the past month. The length of monthly use before the MI, including use >10 years, also showed no association.” 

Researchers have studied the connection between marijuana and cardiovascular health for some time now. The interest comes from the fact that marijuana intake in the body, in any form, whether it’s smoking or ingestion, does increase heart rate and blood pressure. It’s not uncommon for some users to also report palpitations as a side effect from weed. In addition, some studies have associated marijuana use with atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm disorder. 

Normally, these are all issues that medical professionals need to know more about; there’s a need to know for any potential correlations between cannabis use and impaired heart health. 

What About Combining Weed with Alcohol or Tobacco?

According to a 2021 literature review of 67 studies published in the American Journal of Medicine, marijuana alone does not configure as a cardiovascular health risk factor. However, when it comes to heart health, marijuana “can be associated with other unhealthy behaviors such as alcohol use and tobacco smoking,” both of which can cause harm.  

Crossfading, or the simultaneous use of marijuana and alcohol, might not be the smartest thing if it’s done too often. Excessive drinking is a known risk factor for cardiovascular health, and weed might promote a feeling of wanting to drink more (once you start drinking). 

Excessive alcohol drinking by itself can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, or stroke. And it can also contribute to cardiomyopathy, a condition of the heart muscle. Still, even with alcohol the science is not entirely clear; some studies have shown that moderate use does not affect the cardiovascular system in any particular negative way. 

Finally, there’s sufficient evidence that consistent use of tobacco products can really lead to heart disease. Which would imply that if marijuana users want to stay on the healthier side, they should probably opt for joints way more often than they opt for spliffs. 

Also read on Soft Secrets:

- The Difference Between Good and Bad Weed

- Is It OK to Put Alcohol in a Bong?

- How to Deal with Weed Hangovers?

Stephen Andrews