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. Can CBD help the heart? Studies show CBD may reduce the risk of heart disease. Check out the best CBD oils for cardiovascular health in 2020.
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.
CBD for Heart Disease: Can It Help? — What the Research Says
Heart disease is the leading cause of death around the world.
CBD supplements have been shown to slow heart disease progression & improve quality of life.
Learn how it works & how to use it safely.
According to The World Health Organization, heart disease is the leading cause of death around the world. Nearly 18 million people die each year from the condition.
Around 90% of heart attacks are preventable, according to a 2008 study .
CBD supplements have been suggested to potentially offer broad protective effects against developing heart diseases.
Here, we’ll go over what heart disease is, how CBD can be used to support it, and what else you can do to reduce your chances of falling victim to the leading cause of death around the world.
Let’s get started.
MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY
Updated on October 19, 2021
Table of Contents
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What Are The Benefits of CBD Oil For Heart Disease?
There are many different forms of heart disease — some are serious and life-threatening; others are more benign.
CBD may be a useful supplement for alleviating common side-effects of heart disease, and in some cases, can help mitigate the underlying causes of the condition.
CBD could be especially beneficial to people suffering from atrial fibrillation (or other arrhythmias) associated with anxiety and inflammatory causes, including atherosclerosis. Future studies should be done to directly investigate the relationship between taking CBD and cardiac health outcomes in humans.
Most patients with heart disease use CBD to alleviate comorbidities such as anxiety, inflammation, insomnia, and depression.
Potential Benefits of CBD for Heart Disease:
- Stabilizes blood sugar levels 
- Promotes weight loss
- Decreasesinflammation 
- Lowers blood pressure in the face of acute stress 
- Protects the arteries from oxidative stress 
How to Use CBD Oil for Heart Disease
Heart disease is a serious condition that requires the oversight of an experienced medical professional.
Always consult your doctor before taking any supplements — including CBD.
It is important to know that CBD will not stop chest pain or a heart attack in progress. If you have symptoms like squeezing or crushing chest/arm/jaw pain, nausea, with excess sweating – you should call emergency medical services or go to your nearest emergency room right away.
After calling for help in such a situation, chewing one adult-dose aspirin (325 mg), or up to 4 baby aspirins (81 mg each x 4 = 324 mg) at once, with water has been shown to reduce mortality in heart attack patients.
Be sure not to just swallow without chewing, and avoid enteric-coated aspirin — the idea is to ingest aspirin as fast as possible after calling for help.
Do not take aspirin if you are allergic to it, and do not give it to a child unless directed by a physician. Even if you take aspirin daily, you should take another one at the onset of heart attack symptoms.
Don’t start or stop taking aspirin daily unless your doctor has told you so.
It’s also important to note that CBD may interact with medications, including sensitive heart medications such as cardiac glycosides and blood thinners. While CBD has been proven safe in both animal and human trials, it may be necessary to decrease your dose of CBD if you are on one of these common heart medications.
To get the most out of your CBD supplementation, look for companies that use certified organic hemp and avoid those that don’t list their third-party lab results publicly on their website. Any contaminants in low-quality oils could make underlying causes for heart disease even worse, so it’s critical to ensure you only use high-quality products.
We also recommend using full-spectrum oils over CBD isolates because they contain other cannabinoids in the cannabis plant that offer their own set of benefits toward inflammation, blood sugar regulation, and anxiety — all of which are critically important in the underlying causes and sustaining factors of heart disease.
What Form of CBD Should I Use?
Choosing what type of CBD to use out of all the options can seem intimidating at first — there’s capsules, oils, tinctures, suppositories, edibles, gummies, vape oils, coffee, and numerous other forms depending on the company.
The truth is that most of these will work just fine. In all forms except topical CBD, the result is the absorption of CBD into the bloodstream.
With that said, CBD oils, tinctures, and capsules offer distinct advantages over the other options when it comes to heart disease.
The benefit of CBD oils and tinctures is that the dose can be individually measured more easily than most other forms. Once you’ve determined the amount of CBD contained in each milliliter or drop of fluid, it’s easy to tweak the dose according to how it affects you individually.
CBD capsules are also an excellent option and are considered by many to be the most convenient form of dosing CBD.
Tips for Optimizing CBD Supplementation
- Use a full-spectrum extract
- Use CBD over the long term for the best results
- Make dietary and lifestyle changes
- Discuss CBD use with your doctor to avoid drug interactions
- Use oral CBD only
- Avoid cigarette smoking and other tobacco product use at all costs
What’s the Dose of CBD?
The required dose of CBD can vary from one person to the next. This is because the compound affects everyone differently depending on the health of the liver, your prescriptions, digestive tract, and genetic variability in the endocannabinoid function throughout the body.
For this reason, most people need to do some trial and error when trying CBD for the first time.
The best way to do this is to start with the lowest dose on our chart below according to your weight and build up gradually each day by adding 2 mg or 3 mg of CBD. Once you find relief from your symptoms, you’ve found the correct dose for you.
It’s important to note that some people end up at a dose far higher than those listed on the chart below. In general, the maximum dose of CBD should be around 100 mg, but this can vary from person to person, and CBD is considered highly safe even at large doses.