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
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
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.
Next: This, unfortunately, can also happen to your heart.
3. Smoking pot can weaken the heart overall
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
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 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
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
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.
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