Does Marijuana Really Weaken Your Heart?

Let's investigate the truth behind the most recent claims that marijuana use weakens heart muscle.

Ben Greenfield,
December 12, 2016
Episode #315

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Recently, news hit the headlines that, according to a recent study, “marijuana use is associated with an almost doubled risk of developing stress cardiomyopathy,” which is a potentially fatal weakening of the heart muscle. Interestingly, prior to this most recent study, a 2016 study in rats found that one minute of exposure to marijuana smoke impairs the heart’s inner lining for 90 minutes, which is even longer than the impairment that occurs from smoking cigarettes.

This is a big deal, especially when you consider that marijuana is now in the process of being legalized in a significant number of states in the USA. Not only that, but an estimated 22 million Americans say they regularly use marijuana.

To confuse matters just slightly, at the same time as these new studies have been coming out, health experts have been changing their minds on the potential “deleterious effects” of marijuana. For example, CNN's chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta reversed his opinion on medical marijuana and now believes that the drug should be fully legal for medical use. Harvard Health Review has reported that the health benefits of both medicinal and recreational use of marijuana include treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy a variety of psychiatric disorders (e.g., anxiety, substance use disorders, schizophrenia, and psychosis). A 1999 US Government sponsored study by the Institute of Medicine discovered more of these beneficial properties of marijuana in medical conditions such as nausea caused by chemotherapy, and wasting caused by AIDS, and since then, a number of studies have been done to show that smoked marijuana has pain reducing effects. Finally, a large number of small but significant studies have shown marijuana use to assist with medical conditions from alzheimers to glaucoma to arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and beyond.

So does marijuana really weaken your heart muscle? If it does, and if you’re also stressing your heart with exercise, this could be a huge worry. As a Get-Fit Guy listener and reader, anything that affects your risk of a medical issue during exercise should definitely be something you pay attention to, so today we’ll investigate the truth behind these most recent claims that marijuana use weakens heart muscle.

The first study, which appeared in a journal of the American Heart Association, looked into trends in hospital admissions and outcomes of adults with something called “transient ventricular regional ballooning (TVRB)” of the heart in response to marijuana use. TVRB is a form of cardiomyopathy, which is a sudden weakening of the heart muscle that can mimic symptoms of a heart attack. The symptoms include chest pain, dizziness, and shortness of breath, and the condition is often temporary but still significant.

Researchers in this study searched the 2003-2011 Nationwide Inpatient Sample database and identified 33,343 admissions for TRVB, of which 210 (0.06%) were related to marijuana use. Demographics, clinical characteristics, and outcomes of the two groups were then compared.

So what did the researchers report?


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