The relationship between marijuana and high blood pressure is so complex that even the experts cannot conclude if our favorite herb is safe for people who have hypertension.
Some say that cannabis increases the risk of cardiac arrest in people already suffering from high blood pressure, while others claim there aren’t nearly enough cases to prove that. Most of the studies I found while writing this article also have opposing conclusions. The reason being is that they have mostly been conducted on animals and usually without including other factors that often cause hypertension.
However, according to seasoned weed vets and observational studies, cannabis first slightly increases your blood pressure and then lowers it. But that’s not nearly a good enough answer. To find out the truth behind many claims concerning this question, I decided to go through every important study dealing with the effects of weed on blood pressure and then present my findings in this guide.
Also, I’ll be looking into experiences of real users, which I believe are of the utmost importance in cases like this one. Let’s find out how weed affects blood pressure, once and for all.
What is high blood pressure (hypertension)?
Before we can dive into the effects of marijuana on blood pressure we first need to understand the difference between normal and high blood pressure. When your heart beats, it pumps the blood through your arteries, forcing them to expand and contract.
The force with which the blood presses on the arteries is known as the blood pressure. Its function is essential, as it helps our body deliver oxygen and other nutrients to our organs. When our heart pumps, it pushes the blood through our arteries, which causes the pressure inside them. This is known as a systolic pressure.
Between two heartbeats, at the moment when the heart rests, there is a pressure called diastolic. In healthy individuals, the heart does not have to work excessively so the blood flow is smooth. For most healthy adults, the normal blood pressure is between 100-130 millimeters systolic and between 60-80 diastolic. However, if the arteries are narrower than usual, we come to a condition called high blood pressure, or hypertension.
High blood pressure is a long-term cardiovascular condition which occurs when the blood pressure in arteries is constantly elevated.
This usually happens if the arteries are clogged up, so the pressure rises and the heart has to work more. That’s also how arteries get damaged over a long stretch of time. Hypertension affects about a third of adult Americans and around 7.7% of Canadians.
Unfortunately, the condition itself usually does not come with any symptoms. Most of the time, patients discover they have high blood pressure during a regular screening. Hypertension is not something that should be ignored. If left untreated, it can cause serious health problems.
If you are wondering what causes the increased blood pressure in the first place, you should know that even the experts haven’t fully answered that question.
As with many other conditions, there are certain things that can influence the development of this disorder. Genetics, smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, obesity, bad diet and stress all play a role.
What science has to say about marijuana and hypertension?
As I’ve said, we barely have a few studies on the influence of cannabis on blood pressure, and they usually don’t analyze all the different factors, which would make the results conclusive.
But here is what I’ve found so far.
THC is not the best friend of hypertension?
The first study I’m going to reference is a study published in August 2017, conveniently named the “Effect of marijuana use on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular mortality”.
One of the most quoted studies on marijuana and high blood pressure, this paper suggests that regular cannabis users are three times more likely to die from hypertension. But there is one huge problem with it:
It consists of participants who used cannabis “at least once in their life”, so we basically have no idea whether the subjects smoked every day or they just smoked once in high school, which leaves a lot of room on the table for misinterpretation. It’s important to point out that the study was observational, meaning that the participants gave their feedback through follow up visits.
So, basically, there is no possible way to know for sure if cannabis itself had any role in causing hypertension.
There are a few studies that suggest that occasional users may experience a mild or moderate increase in heart rate, with a slight increase in blood pressure 10-15 minutes after consuming cannabis.
These studies claim that, after the initial increase, our blood pressure drops, leaving us sleepy and groggy (sounds familiar, right?).
Some marijuana consumers can also develop tolerance to uncomfortable side effects of pot just a few days or weeks after using the herb. When it comes to more severe consequences of high blood pressure linked to cannabis use, we can only rely on CARDIA’s report, which followed more than 3.500 Americans over the course of 15 years.
The results might sound surprising at first:
No long-term connection was found between marijuana and cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack and stroke.
However, the study also pointed out that:
“Although marijuana use was not independently associated with cardiovascular risk factors, it was associated with other unhealthy behaviors, such as high caloric diet, tobacco smoking, and other illicit drug use.”
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