Marijuana use and heart-attack risk were correlated in a large human study, Stanford scientists and their collaborators found. A molecule in soybeans may counteract these effects. Harvard-trained cardiologist Cynthia Thaik explores the currect research on how CBD can help lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation. Heart disease is a type of cardiovascular disease (CVD) that refers to any disorder involving the heart. Decreased blood flow can cause a heart attack
Marijuana linked to heart disease; supplement may mitigate risk, study reports
Marijuana use and heart-attack risk were correlated in a large human study, Stanford scientists and their collaborators found. A molecule in soybeans may counteract these effects.
April 29, 2022 – By Krista Conger
People who smoke marijuana more than once a month have an increased risk of heart attack and heart disease, Stanford researchers and their colleagues have found.
People who use marijuana have an increased risk of heart disease and heart attack, according to a large study led by researchers at Stanford Medicine.
The study also showed that the psychoactive component of the drug, known as THC, causes inflammation in endothelial cells that line the interior of blood vessels, as well as atherosclerosis in laboratory mice.
The inflammation and atherosclerosis can be blocked by a small molecule called genistein that occurs naturally in soy and fava beans, the researchers found. Because genistein has limited brain penetration, it doesn’t inhibit THC’s ability to stimulate appetite, dull pain and tamp down nausea — characteristics vital to medicinal marijuana users.
“As more states legalize the recreational use of marijuana, users need to be aware that it could have cardiovascular side effects,” said Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, professor of cardiovascular medicine and of radiology, and the director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute. “But genistein works quite well to mitigate marijuana-induced damage of the endothelial vessels without blocking the effects marijuana has on the central nervous system, and it could be a way for medical marijuana users to protect themselves from a cardiovascular standpoint.”
In part because THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is a controlled substance in the United States and therefore strictly regulated in medical research, the investigators cautioned that the long-term health effects of regular use remain largely unclear.
“Marijuana has a significantly adverse effect on the cardiovascular system,” said instructor of medicine Mark Chandy, MD, PhD. “As more states legalize marijuana use, I expect we will begin to see a rise in heart attacks and strokes in the coming years. Our studies of human cells and mice clearly outline how THC exposure initiates a damaging molecular cascade in the blood vessels. It’s not a benign drug.”
Wu, who holds the Simon H. Stertzer, MD, Professorship, is the senior author of the study, which will be published online April 29 in Cell. Chandy shares lead authorship with former postdoctoral scholar Tzu-Tang Wei, PhD, and instructor Masataka Nishiga, MD.
THC and inflammation
The researchers analyzed the genetic and medical data of about 500,000 people ages 40-69. The data was from the UK Biobank. Nearly 35,000 participants reported smoking cannabis; of those, about 11,000 smoked more than once a month. The more-than-monthly smokers were significantly more likely than others in the study to have a heart attack after controlling for other factors including age, body mass index and sex. The researchers found that frequent marijuana smokers were also more likely than nonusers to have their first heart attack before the age of 50 — an unusual medical event called a premature heart attack that increases a person’s lifelong risk of subsequent heart attack, heart failure and life-threatening arrhythmias that can cause sudden death.
Inflammation of the blood vessels is a primary hallmark of atherosclerosis — the thickening of the vessel wall due to the buildup of plaques made up of fats, cholesterol and other substances — which can lead to heart attack. The researchers found that the levels of inflammatory molecules in the blood of volunteers who smoked a marijuana cigarette increased significantly over the subsequent three hours. They further showed that THC promotes inflammation and hallmarks of atherosclerosis in human endothelial cells grown in the laboratory. Finally, laboratory mice bred to have high cholesterol levels and fed a high-fat diet developed significantly larger atherosclerosis plaques when injected with THC at levels comparable to smoking one marijuana cigarette per day than did control animals.
THC binds to a receptor called CB1 on cells in the human brain, heart and vasculature system. The receptor recognizes naturally occurring cannabinoids, or endocannabinoids, which regulate mood, pain perception, immune function and metabolism. But frequent marijuana use causes inappropriate activation of CB1, which can cause inflammation and atherosclerosis, and it is associated with obesity, cancer and diabetes. Researchers have been trying to develop molecules called antagonists to block CB1’s function in conditions in which the receptor is overactive, like obesity, but until now the use of the antagonists has been thwarted by psychiatric side effects including mood disorders and anxiety arising from their activity in the brain.
Search for CB1 antagonists
The researchers used machine-learning techniques to screen a large database of protein structures and identify molecules structurally similar to previously identified CB1 antagonists that could block THC’s inflammatory and atherosclerotic properties without causing psychiatric side effects. They found that genistein, a naturally occurring molecule in soybeans, binds to CB1 but has poor brain penetration. When they added the genistein molecule to THC-treated human endothelial cells or gave it to the THC-injected mice with high cholesterol, they found genistein blocked the drug’s deleterious effects and did not block the psychoactive effects of THC on the brain.
As more states legalize the recreational use of marijuana, users need to be aware that it could have cardiovascular side effects.
“We didn’t see any blocking of the normal painkilling or sedating effects of THC in the mice that contribute to marijuana’s potentially useful medicinal properties,” Chandy said. “So genistein is potentially a safer drug than previous CB1 antagonists. It is already used as a nutritional supplement, and 99% of it stays outside the brain, so it shouldn’t cause these particular adverse side effects.”
The researchers hope to conduct clinical trials to learn whether genistein can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in marijuana users. They’d also like to extend their studies to include CBD — another cannabinoid in marijuana that does not have the psychoactive effects of THC.
“There’s a growing public perception that marijuana is harmless or even beneficial,” Wu said, comparing the legalization of marijuana use to vaping, which was first marketed as a safe way to stop smoking but has since been shown to cause lung damage and lead to increased tobacco use. “Marijuana clearly has important medicinal uses, but recreational users should think carefully about excessive use.”
Other Stanford authors of the study are graduate student Angela Zhang; postdoctoral scholars Kaavya Krishna Kumar, PhD, Dilip Thomas, PhD, Amit Manhas, PhD, and Johanne Marie Justesen, PhD; instructors of cardiovascular medicine Siyeon Rhee, PhD, and Chun Liu, PhD; cardiovascular fellow Ian Chen, MD, PhD; former postdoctoral scholars Saereh Khanamiri, PhD, and Hung-Ta Wo, MD; life sciences researcher Johnson Yang, former graduate student Frederick Seidl, PhD; Noah Burns, PhD, associate professor of chemistry; Nazish Sayed, MD, PhD, assistant professor of vascular surgery; Manuel Rivas, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical data science; and Brian Kobilka, PhD, professor of molecular and cellular physiology.
Researchers from National Taiwan University, the University of Copenhagen, Academia Sinica, the University of Colorado School of Medicine and UC-San Francisco also contributed to the work.
The research was supported by the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, the American Heart Association, the Steven M. Gootter Foundation, the Taiwan Ministry of Science and Technology, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Leducq Foundation, and the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program.
3 Ways CBD Can Help With Heart Disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women, killing a person every 37 seconds in the United States alone. Heart disease is the result of the cardiovascular system not working efficiently when the blood vessels harden and plaque accumulates over time.
Treating this medical condition is the job of thousands of medical professionals who work to prevent patients from suffering from fatal strokes or heart attacks. However, the medication to treat heart disease comes with a list of side effects that can cause other complications, so a safer alternative is ideal.
CBD and the Endocannabinoid System
CBD works with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), but before expanding on how it affects your body, it is important to know that it will not make you high. Two main natural compounds are extracted from the cannabis plant. There is CBD, also known as cannabinol and THC, also known as tetrahydrocannabinol.
THC has psychoactive properties, and it will make you high. On the other hand, CBD does not have psychoactive properties. Accordingly, products such as CBD oil or edibles such as gummies with minimal THC levels can be taken safely without fear of getting high.
With its positive traits, researchers are analyzing this compound to see if it is a safer option when compared to traditional treatment prescribed for heart disease. CBD has similar properties to the ECS found in our bodies and manages critical functions such as appetite, mood, sleep, temperature, reproductive systems, immune systems, and more. In a nutshell, the ECS’s goal is to create homeostasis, thus achieving the right balance in your body for optimal function.
While CBD does not directly work with your cardiovascular system, it does have positive benefits on lowering the risk of heart disease thanks to the way it interacts with the ECS.
How is CBD Helpful to Patients with Heart Disease?
Research on CBD is limited since researchers usually have to conduct tests on animals, rather than people. However, early studies are showing the benefits of CBD on patients with heart disease. These include:
- Reducing irregular heartbeats, also known as arrhythmias
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reducing inflammation
Heart arrhythmias happen when the electrical impulses in your body help coordinate your heartbeats when they aren’t working as they should. As a result, it can beat slower, faster, or irregular. While some heart arrhythmias are harmless, others can be life-threatening.
In one study on rats , researchers noted the positive effect of CBD on arrhythmias. It was noted how CBD is “cardioprotective” by lowering ventricular arrhythmias. They concluded that CBD could help with the antiarrhythmic effect.
Lowering Blood Pressure
High blood pressure creates damage to the body for years before you even start feeling symptoms. Hypertension can damage or narrow your arteries due to the high pressure inside your body.
When blood vessels’ pressure occurs for years, it can start forming bulges, known as aneurysms. If one of these bulges ruptures, internal bleeding would be the result that could lead to fatal consequences. High blood pressure may also be the culprit of an enlarged heart when it’s forced to work harder to pump blood, leading to a higher risk of a heart attack. Hypertension can also cause heart failure and coronary artery disease, both of which lead to chest pains and heart attacks.
Lowering your blood pressure is, therefore, crucial to reducing your risk of heart disease and this is where CBD can help. Researchers have found that CBD can lower blood pressure by widening blood vessels and enabling the blood to flow more easily. During a 2017 study , researchers learned that one dose of CBD reduced blood pressure in healthy participants.
Researchers have already noted the benefits of CBD on inflammation-causing diseases such as multiple sclerosis and arthritis. CBD can also be of benefit when it comes to the inflammation of the heart.
One report conducted by researchers at the Imperial College London noted how CBD contains significant anti-inflammatory properties, even higher than the usual contenders such as antioxidants, Omega-3 and vitamin C. When mice were given 5 mg of CBD, their inflammation was diminished by 50 percent.
Using CBD the Right Way
As with any other form of medication, doses will vary from one person to the next, even when it comes to consuming CBD. Ideally, it’s always best to consult a medical professional before taking CBD, especially if you are already suffering from a form of heart disease and you are taking medication.
CBD could affect your current medication and lead to complications. Moreover, a professional can guide you into choosing the right CBD for you, as some can still contain a high percentage of THC.
Furthermore, CBD should not be the only answer to your heart disease problems. A healthy diet is critical to remain healthy as is regular exercise and enjoying days when stress and anxiety are not present.
About the author
Dr. Cynthia Thaik, M.D., FACC is a Harvard-trained cardiologist serving the greater Los Angeles community at her holistic health center in Burbank and Valencia, CA. Dr. Thaik is the author of Your Vibrant Heart: Restoring Health, Strength, and Spirit from the Body’s Core. To learn more about Dr. Thaik or the Holistic Healing Heart Center, or to schedule an appointment, please contact [email protected] or call (818) 842-1410 .
Best CBD Oil for Heart Disease – August 2022
Heart disease is a type of cardiovascular disease (CVD) that refers to any disorder involving the heart. This condition involves deformities, defects, and irregular functions of the organ.
Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disorder. Coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease is when a plaque builds up in the arteries and blocks the blood flow .
A plaque is a combination of substances found in the blood. The clogging of the arteries from chronic inflammation is also called atherosclerosis.
Other types of heart problems include congenital heart disease, arrhythmia, dilated cardiomyopathy, heart valve disease, and heart failure .
In general, these heart conditions are treated with medications and surgery. Common medications include statins, anticoagulants, beta-blockers, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE).
Although some of these medications are essential to reduce the risk of stroke and mortality rate of heart diseases, some people discontinue their medications to avoid their side effects (7) .
Side effects include muscle spasms and pain , cognitive impairment, hot flashes, and indigestion.
Some patients are prescribed multiple medications for heart problems. A study focused on this trend and the effects of long-term use of these drugs on older patients (8) .
Results showed that using these drugs may lead to gastrointestinal bleeding, muscle damage, and hypoglycemia.
Cannabidiol or CBD is the major nonpsychoactive component of hemp, a variety of cannabis plants .
CBD has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects that may improve heart health (9) . It also has a better safety profile compared to most medications (10) .
In a study conducted on rats, CBD reduced the myocardial infarct size, or the damage caused by heart attack, several days after the occurrence (11) .
The results of this animal study may be useful to researchers who want to further explore CBD’s effects on the human body.
Oxidative stress may also be a risk factor for developing heart conditions (12) . It is classified as the imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body.
Free radicals are unpaired molecules that can damage cells and cause illness. Antioxidants are the molecules that protect the cells from damage.
When free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS) enter the heart, oxidative stress occurs, which then causes heart problems, like heart failure (13) .
CBD’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may help attenuate oxidative stress brought by excess free radicals (14) . The compound blocks the development of the ROS and activates receptors that elicit an anti-inflammatory response.
This reaction from CBD may serve as a protection mechanism for the heart from oxidative stress.
How CBD Oil Works to Help Alleviate Symptoms of Heart Disease
When CBD enters the body, it interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is essential in maintaining the body’s homeostasis, including functions of the brain, endocrine, and the immune system (15) .
The ECS functions through the interaction among endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes.
The endocannabinoids serve as the communication device of the ECS with the other systems of the body.
The endocannabinoids bind with the receptors located throughout the body and signal for a specific action to happen. The cannabinoids are then broken down by enzymes.
CBD is a phytocannabinoid that binds with receptors when administered into the body. It carries out analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties to alleviate the symptoms of heart disease (16) .
CBD for Inflammation
Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle . This heart condition causes cell death in the heart, making it lose its ability to pump blood. This complication can lead to heart failure or death.
CBD may help improve the heart’s condition caused by autoimmune myocarditis, as shown in a study conducted on mice (17) . The compound also inhibited fibrosis and inflammation of the heart.
Autoimmune myocarditis is an autoimmune disorder characterized by an inflamed heart muscle. Its causes are unknown. However, it may be linked to an occurrence where the immune system mistakenly attacks the heart muscle (18) .
Fibrosis is defined as scarring in the heart caused by heart attacks and heart failure s (19) .
Other health conditions may also cause heart problems. In a study conducted on mice with induced diabetes, CBD hindered heart inflammation (20) . Diabetes is a risk factor for CVD (21) .
CBD for Blood Pressure
Hypertension caused by high cholesterol levels may increase the risk of heart disease. As cholesterol levels increase, lipids may build up in the arteries, causing atherosclerosis.
CBD may hamper atherosclerosis progression by blocking the formation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is the bad cholesterol that blocks the arteries (22) .
CBD may act as a vasodilator that widens the blood vessels and allows more blood to flow. The widening reduces the damage to the arterial walls caused by high blood pressure (23) .
CBD for Arrhythmia
Arrhythmia is the irregular rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. It can mean that the heart rate is either too quick (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia), or irregular (atrial fibrillation). Changes in the heart tissue cause changes in the heartbeat.
A study on rats concluded that CBD helped with irregular heartbeats due to myocardial infarction (24) . The antiarrhythmic effect was mediated by the reaction of the compound in the blood.
Myocardial infarction or heart attack occurs when blood flow slows down or stops because of coronary artery blockage.
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Heart Disease
- CBD has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects that may help improve heart health and address heart problems with inflammatory etiologies.
- CBD may be a potential treatment for symptoms of heart diseases, as stated in the supporting studies above.
- Medicinal CBD is legal in most states and territories in the US. CBD products may be bought in these states even without a prescription from a doctor.
- The Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) does not endorse CBD as a treatment for heart problems.
- Possible side effects of CBD include nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, and reduced appetite (25) .
- Most heart disease-related studies done on CBD have been conducted on animals without guaranteed effects on humans (26) .
How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Heart Disease
Most heart diseases can be prevented with a healthy diet , lifestyle changes, and dietary supplements.
Complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) used for cardiac conditions are medicinal herbs, spiritual and mind-body therapies, physical therapies, and other alternatives (27) .
Herbs and supplements, like omega-3 fatty acids, Ginkgo biloba , garlic, and CoQ10, are often taken alongside prescribed medications to aid in heart conditions.
Antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, lycopene, and vitamins C and E, are also alternative supplements that may combat oxidative stress contributing to atherosclerosis.
Therapies, like chelation, biofeedback, meditation, and massages, may increase blood flow and reduce the stress of people with heart diseases.
However, these treatment options may cause severe effects due to herb-drug interactions, delaying essential treatments needed for cardiac diseases.
People with heart problems should consult a physician or see a cardiologist first to know about the safe use of herbs and supplements.
CBD may be used as an add-on therapy for individuals who are considering to implement lifestyle changes or shift to a healthy diet.
However, unlike herbs and supplements, it may not be safe to combine CBD with medications for heart diseases.
CBD may have possible drug interactions with conventional heart disease medications. Certain cardiovascular drugs are metabolized by the enzyme system cytochrome P450 (28) .
A 2016 study revealed that CBD might be the most potent inhibitor of several enzymes under the cytochrome P450 family (29) . This inhibition may have an effect on the efficacy of cardiovascular medications on individuals who take them.
Patients who are taking supplements, such as Ginkgo biloba, are also not recommended to use these medications in combination with CBD.
A 2014 study reported that Ginkgo biloba might be metabolized by cytochrome P450 enzymes (30) . For this reason, CBD may inhibit the enzyme activity and affect the efficacy of the herbal supplement.
How to Choose the Right CBD Oil for Heart Disease
Vasorelaxation is the attenuation of tension in the blood vessel walls.
Natural products with vasorelaxant properties are known to have positive effects on cardiovascular conditions (31) .
A study conducted on rabbits has shown that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) might have vasorelaxant effects (32) .
However, THC may cause a high in users because it is the psychoactive compound of the Cannabis sativa plant.
Full-spectrum CBD products contain THC, but only trace amounts, as permitted by federal laws.
In full-spectrum CBD products, the THC content is not enough to get users high, but may be detected by some drug tests.
Full-spectrum CBD products contain all the cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant, including THC. It is suggested that these active ingredients work in synergy to give maximum therapeutic benefits to the user. This mechanism is known as the entourage effect.
Full-spectrum CBD oil products are usually more preferred than other CBD types, such as broad-spectrum CBD and CBD isolates.
CBD isolates contain pure CBD derived from the hemp plant. They have a 99% concentration of the compound.
The broad-spectrum type contains CBD and other compounds found in cannabis plants but without THC.
Consult with a doctor before using CBD is recommended since full-spectrum CBD products contain traces of THC that may evoke psychoactive effects.
CBD Dosage for Heart Disease
There is no approved dosage for CBD. Nonetheless, studies have shown that there are no severe side effects up to 1500 mg of CBD per day (33) . CBD oil is well-tolerated even if taken in high doses .
It is strongly advised to take a small dose of CBD for initial administration. Slowly increase the dose until desired results are reached.
How to Take CBD Oil for Heart Disease
CBD can be taken in the following formulations: oils, tinctures , gummies , vapes , and creams.
CBD oils , t inctures, and gummies are recommended for ingestion. These products work with the digestive system so that the compound is easily absorbed.
Tinctures can also be administered sublingually (under the tongue) for direct absorption into the blood.
CBD vapes are available for those who want to experience the quick effects of CBD.
A 2018 study has shown that CBD when inhaled has 31% bioavailability (34) .
Bioavailability is the rate at which a drug is absorbed into the body.
Heart disease patients should take caution when vaping as it may have detrimental effects on their ailments (35) .
Other CBD formats include topicals, such as salves, balms, and creams. However, these formulations which target the skin may not be as effective in treating cardiovascular diseases.
Heart Disease vs. Cardiovascular Disease
Heart disease refers to conditions directly affecting the heart. It may also include diseases of the blood vessels, congenital (present at birth) heart ailments, and heart rhythm problems (36) .
Meanwhile, cardiovascular diseases refer to ailments that involve the narrowing or blockage of blood vessels, which may result in chest pain (angina), stroke, or heart attacks.
Different Types and Causes of Heart Diseases
Congenital Heart Disease
Congenital heart disease is a general term for congenital disabilities of the heart that may affect how it functions. The causes of this condition are still unknown. However, the risks may increase because of genes and chromosome changes or a combination of both.
The mother’s as diet, medications, and preexisting health problems may also impact a baby’s condition.
Dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle . The heart’s pumping chambers (the left ventricle) dilates, causing reduced pumps.
The enlargement of the left ventricle may be caused by cancer medications, substance use and abuse, arrhythmias, and medical conditions, like diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.
Heart Valve Disease
This disease occurs when one or more heart valves do not work correctly. There are four heart valves or blood vessels that keep the blood flowing in the right direction. Each valve has tissue flaps that open and close in synchronization with each heartbeat. If one of the flaps does not open or close properly, blood flow is disrupted.
Other heart conditions, old age, and infections may increase the chances of acquiring this disease.
Heart failure is a chronic condition of the heart muscle. It happens when the heart does not pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.
A combination of other heart conditions, like coronary heart disease and congenital heart disease, weaken or damage the heart, causing heart failure.
The Legality of CBD
As of April 2020, 33 states have legalized the use of medical marijuana. Meanwhile, the remaining 17 states only allow CBD use (37) .
The state laws regulate the amount of CBD and THC used in the products. The amount of CBD on each product should be around 10% to 15%. THC should not be more than 0.5% per product volume.
The heart is a vital organ in the cardiovascular system . If it is impaired, a person’s cardiovascular health is affected and the entire body suffers.
Heart diseases are the leading causes of death in the US, accounting for 1 out of 4 deaths (38) . When left untreated, heart diseases can lead to stroke, heart attack, or even death.
Aside from the invasive treatments, like surgery, most medications for heart problems have adverse and long-term side effects. Because of these risks, people seek for other alternatives, like CBD oil.
The health benefits of CBD include its cardioprotective, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties that may have positive effects on the heart.
While CBD may be a promising treatment for heart diseases, it is best to consult with a cardiologist before using it. CBD may interact with some prescription medications.