Early cannabis use linked to heart disease, study finds

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In a new study from the University of Guelph, researchers found that smoking cannabis when you’re young may increase your risk of developing heart disease later.

In the first study to look at specific risk indicators for cardiovascular disease (CVD) in young, healthy cannabis users, researchers found subtle but potentially important changes in heart and artery function.

Cigarette smoking is known to affect heart health, causing changes to blood vessels and the heart. Less is known about the impact of smoking cannabis on long-term CVD risk.

Cannabis is the most commonly used recreational substance worldwide after alcohol.

In the study, the team examined 35 people aged 19 to 30, half of whom were cannabis users. For all the people, they used ultrasound imaging to look at the heart and arteries.

They measured arterial stiffness and arterial function, or the ability of arteries to appropriately expand with greater blood flow. All three measures are indicators of heart function and potential disease risk.

The team found arterial stiffness was greater in cannabis users than in non-users.

In addition, in cannabis users, cardiac function—inferred from how the heart moves as seen in echocardiographic images—was lower than in non-users.

The team was surprised to see no difference in artery dilation in response to changing blood flow. All three measures normally change in cigarette smokers, with stiffer arteries and lower vascular and heart function.

The team says the differences may reflect variations in how tobacco and cannabis are consumed, as well as amounts and frequency and the user’s age.

These findings suggest that even before more overt signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease are present, there may be more subtle indications in altered physiological function.

If you care about cannabis and your health, please read studies about how to use cannabis to improve mental health and findings of heart disease, diabetes linked to cannabis exposure in utero.

For more information about cannabis, please see recent studies about vaping vs. smoking cannabis: Which is safer?

The study is published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. One author of the study is Christian Cheung.

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