Doctors expected that cannabis use would pose a risk for heart failure patients, but found that the opposite was true. They also found that cannabis users were less likely to die in the hospital.
A research team has made the discovery that cannabis may have benefits for those suffering from heart problems. At a recent meeting of the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions, Dr. Oluwole Adegbala, medical resident at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in New Jersey, presented the findings of an unpublished study on the link between cannabis use and heart failure. Previous research has suggested links between cannabis use and heart problems, and the research team fully expected to find evidence supporting claims that cannabis users were at greater risk of heart-related health problems.
Instead, the team was “surprised” to find that cannabis users were less likely to experience atrial fibrillation (A-fib), an irregularity of the heartbeat that can worsen the symptoms of heart failure, compared to non-users. Dr. Adegbala and his colleagues analyzed a database of over 6 million patients suffering from heart failure who were admitted to the hospital between 2007 and 2014. Around 23,000 of these patients reportedly used cannabis but were not considered dependent on the drug, and another 1,200 patients were considered dependent cannabis users, LiveScience reports.
The research team found that the non-dependent cannabis users were 18% less likely than non-users to experience A-fib, and were also 46% less likely to die in the hospital. The dependent cannabis users were 31% less likely to develop A-fib and 58% less likely to die in the hospital than non-users. Researchers adjusted their data to account for age, socioeconomic status, and use of other drugs, and discovered that their findings were still solid.
Dr. Adegbala told LiveScience that his team was not able to identify the exact reasons why cannabis might decrease the risk of A-fib or mortality for heart failure patients. Previous research in animals has found that high blood pressure and atherosclerosis, two risk factors for A-fib, can be reduced by activating cannabinoid receptors. Dr. Adegbala also noted that cannabidiol can reduce inflammation, which is another risk factor for A-fib. Despite their positive findings, the research team does not recommend that heart failure patients begin using cannabis as a treatment until further research can be conducted to support or refute the findings of this study.