Marijuana’s Horrifying Effect On Your Heart Is Something Nobody Ever Tells You
More states than ever are legalizing marijuana in some form, whether for medical usage or not. And even more Americans are totally on board. The positive effects of this plant are well-documented, as it can help with symptoms for various diseases. But there’s also a darker side to marijuana that’s rarely talked about.
As it turns out, this “harmless” drug can actually have devastating effects on your heart. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe.
1. Marijuana raises your heart rate dramatically
Like exercise, pot could set your heart racing. | iStock
On average, your heart rate should stay somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute, Mayo Clinic says. And generally speaking, the lower the better, as this signifies a more efficient heart. A high heart rate for extended periods of time can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, and even cardiac arrest in some cases.
Everyday Health explains marijuana usage can raise your heart rate as much as 100%. This typically happens right after smoking, but can also last for several hours afterward.
Next: A smoking habit might lead to a strange fluttering in your chest after awhile.
2. Usage can lead to irregular heartbeats
Pot could mess with your heart. | iStock
Dr. Shereif Rezkalla, a cardiologist who studies marijuana, says there’s a lot of evidence to support that marijuana can indeed have a therapeutic effect on many, Live Science reports. But, Rezkalla says “clinical evidence also suggests the potential for serious cardiovascular risks.” These risks include developing irregular heartbeats.
Everyday Health explains abnormal heart rhythms can be dangerous, as they can increase the risk of stroke or cardiac arrest.
Next: This, unfortunately, can also happen to your heart.
3. Smoking pot can weaken the heart overall
Pot can weaken heart muscles. | iStock.com
Marijuana doesn’t just impact the way your heart beats. As evidenced by a 2016 study, CNN reports smoking pot regularly can weaken the heart muscles, especially in younger men.
The heart condition itself is known as stress cardiomyopathy, and it more commonly occurs in those who experience sudden stress or grief. Your heart muscles weaken temporarily, which prevents the heart from properly pumping. The lead investigator of the study found marijuana usage has been linked to at least two cases of this syndrome.
Next: Marijuana usage is linked to a higher risk of these common (and deadly) conditions.
4. It increases both your stroke and heart attack risk
Pot could increase your chances for a stroke. | IStock.com/stockdevil
A study cited by ABC News reveals marijuana actually increases the risk of a heart attack “to fives times that of non-smokers” within the first hour of smoking. By the second hour, that risk lowers, but you’re still nearly twice as likely to go into cardiac arrest compared to someone who doesn’t use. The risk finally levels out by hour three.
Everyday Health notes your odds of having a stroke are also higher, as marijuana usage can damage artery function.
Next: This factor increases your chances of having heart issues even more.
5. If you have a history of heart disease, your risk for damage is even higher
If you have a history of heart disease, pot could be potentially dangerous. | iStock.com/RTimages
If you have a healthy heart, you’re at a much lower risk for having heart problems from marijuana. But the same can’t be said for those who have a history of heart disease. Even if you’ve never experienced a dangerous cardiovascular event yourself, you should know if heart issues run in your family and speak to a doctor about your risk.
Along with this, Harvard Health Publications says studies suggest smoking marijuana could increase the death rate for heart attack survivors in the long term.
Next: Marijuana affects other parts of your body, too.
6. Marijuana doesn’t just affect your heart, either
Pot use can lead to memory loss. | iStock/Getty Images
If you’re smoking regularly, you can expect plenty of side effects to your entire body. Long-term marijuana users are more likely to experience memory loss, says one 2016 study. And of course, since you’re inhaling smoke, you’re likely irritating your lungs. You can expect to experience wheezing, a prolonged cough, or inflammation in your airway over time.
On top of this, you’re also likely to have a slower reaction time and impair your ability to make good decisions, which can have plenty of consequences later on.
Next: Smoking pot isn’t a relaxing experience for everyone, either.
7. And in some cases, it can increase anxiety
Pot can increase anxiety. | iStock.com/OcusFocus
While many people ingest marijuana for its calming effects, not everyone will feel completely zen. Medical Daily explains certain studies have linked marijuana to making users feel more anxious than they would otherwise. There’s also research suggesting those who are prone to panic attacks are more likely to have anxiety when using marijuana.
Since weed can trigger hallucinations or give you a sense of “heightened significance,” other studies suggest you have an increased change of developing psychosis with long-term use as well.
The benefits of marijuana are well known, but is it really safe to use? Here are the effects on your heart health you don't know about, but should.
Is cannabis making my heartbeat irregular?
Last year, for a while I smoked cannabis and drank small amounts at the weekends.
I was also a regular smoker.
After smoking cannabis for relaxation for a while, I had a sudden onset of severe symptoms such as a pounding racing heart, feeling of wanting to move my bowels, feeling extremely cold, passing out and not being able to walk.
My heart would go completely out of control, beating around 170 beats per minute. Alcohol had the same effects.
I found this all very distressing. I have given up smoking cannabis and drinking and no longer get all the symptoms, but now get panic attacks.
My doctor says that I have SVT. Can you please tell me more than this. I don’t know what it means, if there is any treatment and how I know if I’ve even got it.
Also, I would like to start to have an occasional drink again. Is this wise?
These sudden episodes of rapid beating of the heart can be very alarming, even though frequently the problem can be remedied and is less threatening to your health than it feels.
Your doctor diagnosed SVT or supraventricular tachycardia. This means a rapid heart rate caused by abnormal activity within the heart’s normal electrical circuit.
The normal heart beat is produced by an electrical impulse that starts in the heart’s pacemaker (called the the sinoatrial node) and spreads along specially modified heart muscle fibres causing the upper chambers (atria) and then the lower chambers (ventricles) to contract.
This pumps the blood through the heart and around the circulatory system.
The electrical impulses occur in a steady rhythm so the heart contracts regularly a certain number of times a minute.
However, when this system is upset, the impulses may come closer together, increasing the heart rate (number of beats per minute) or they may lose some their regularity, changing the heart rhythm.
This can give the sensation of a fast, pounding and possibly irregular heart.
Alcohol is well documented to increase the sensitivity of the sinoatrial node, causing this situation.
Other substances, such as caffeine, can also have this effect. In your case, it is probably that cannabis has also contributed to this increased sensitivity of your node.
The treatment for SVT can be avoiding things that can precipitate attacks, such as alcohol and cannabis, although the condition may occur spontaneously without an obvious cause.
There are medications, such as verapamil or beta blockers (eg propranolol or atenolol) which can also help. If the problem continues, I’d advise you to have a further talk with your GP.
He or she will be able to give you more advice, both on treatments to prevent attacks and on techniques that can be used to stop an attack once it has started.
Last year, for a while I smoked cannabis and drank small amounts at the weekends. I was also a regular smoker. After smoking cannabis for rel…