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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.

Increased Heart Rate

Updated on January 25, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

Whether you’re taking medical marijuana, over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs, it’s essential to know the potential side effects of your medication. One of the possible side effects of medical weed your physician should discuss with you is an increased heart rate.

Possible Side Effects of Medical Weed

When you begin using medical marijuana, you may experience a range of side effects, such as red eyes or hunger. However, in some instances, your physician may recommend medical cannabis because of its side effects. Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, for example, may rely on medical pot as an appetite stimulant.

As a patient of a licensed and compassionate medical marijuana doctor, you can trust they’re weighing the side effects of medical weed against the benefits. In their role as a practitioner, they want to create a treatment plan that offers more advantages than disadvantages.

How Does Medical Weed Cause an Increased Heart Rate?

Like other potential side effects of medical weed, cannabinoids are the cause. More than 100 different cannabinoids are present in cannabis, but the two primary ones are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Researchers believe THC is responsible for increasing users’ heart rates.

When you take medical marijuana, THC expands your blood vessels. For patients with high blood pressure, this reaction is a positive, as it lowers their blood pressure. When your heart recognizes this sudden change in pressure, however, it begins to pump faster.

Signs of an Increased Heart Rate From Medical Cannabis

The most noticeable symptom of an increased heart rate is feeling like your heart is racing or pounding — if you’ve ever consumed too much caffeine, the experience is almost identical. Measure your heart rate by taking your pulse — a normal range for adults is 60 to 100 beats per minute (BPM).

Long-Term Side Effects of an Increased Heart Rate

An increased heart rate from medical marijuana wears off with your medication but can last up to three hours. While a constant elevated heart rate, called tachyarrhythmia, does pose risks to your health, a brief boost due to exercise or medical weed does not.

Having concerns over this side effect is understandable, especially if your cardiovascular health isn’t the best. That’s why it’s critical to meet with your medical marijuana physician and cardiologist to discuss your use of medical cannabis, as well as how you could prevent this side effect.

How to Avoid and Manage an Increased Heart Rate From Medical Marijuana

A few techniques for managing medical marijuana-induced heart rate increases include:

  • Choose Strains With Low THC: Because THC increases heart rates, find an indica strain with a low-THC, high-CBD content. Your local dispensary should have these available, as many patients prefer CBD’s ability to limit the psychoactive effects of THC.
  • Adopt a Micro-Dosing Schedule: For patients who are just starting to use medical marijuana, micro-dosing helps your body adjust to medical weed. It also prevents you from consuming too much medical pot in a short period, since you wait 20 to 30 minutes between doses.

Before modifying your treatment, it’s essential you meet with your physician.

Talk to Your Medical Marijuana Doctor About Your Increased Heart Rate

While an increased heart rate often makes patients nervous about using medical pot, many medical cannabis physicians feel the pros of medical marijuana outweigh this potential con. Plus, they’ll work to alleviate this side effect if you experience it. No matter what kind of side effect you’re experiencing from cannabis, it’s critical to schedule an appointment with your medical marijuana doctor to talk about it.

Learn why some cannabis users experience increased heart rate as a side effect and how to combat side effects to get the most out of your cannabis.