You wonder if marijuana could have a soothing effect on your atrial fibrillation? Studies show that medical cannabis can help with the symptoms of certain conditions like multiple sclerosis, epilepsyand HIV/AIDS.
But for atrial fibrillationthe effects are more mixed.
A little good, more bad
“It really depends on what you’re using it for,” says Uma Srivatsa, MD, clinical professor of medicine at UC Davis Health. “If you use it to relieve painthere may be a benefit as the pain may trigger atrial fibrillation.”
On the other hand, she says, low levels of marijuana activate your “fight or flight,” or stress answer. It means there is more chance than your race, irregular heartbeat will get worse. In fact, marijuana can increase your heartbeat up to 3 hours after using it. It also makes stroke and heart disease more likely. This is important because if you have atrial fibrillationyour chance to get a stroke is already five times higher than someone who doesn’t have it.
Marijuana also relaxes your some blood ships, which lowers your arterial pressure. Srivatsa says it can trigger a response from your heart this is bad news for AFib. When your blood pressure drops, your heart rate may increase. This is especially true in older people who have other heart problems.
Another tricky piece of the puzzle is how much marijuana is okay to take.
“It’s important to understand that we legalized marijuana without knowing the effects of the dose,” says Srivatsa. “For example, we know what a legal blood alcohol level is. But we don’t know what the “legal limit” is for marijuana.
“How do we determine what gets you high versus what makes you calm?”
Olujimi A. Ajijola, MD, PhD, a cardiologist at UCLA Health in Los Angeles, says the overwhelming effect of marijuana on your heart is harmful.
“We advise against it from a cardiovascular standpoint, in general,” he says. “I would definitely caution people with AFib using it.”
What studies show
There are not yet as many studies on the cardiac effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD), two of the active ingredients in marijuana. Ajijola says that’s likely part of the reason there aren’t any official guidelines on marijuana use yet from the American College of Cardiology or the American Heart Association.
But it is almost certain that they will arrive.
“Inevitably people will study this,” Ajijola says. “I don’t think the guidelines will be released until there’s enough data to suggest one way or another, or enough people ask the company to make a statement.”
A recent study seems to suggest that marijuana may actually reduce your risk of atrial fibrillation. But Srivatsa
says it’s important to take a closer look at the people in the study and how the researchers found their results. “I don’t think we can generalize this study to all populations,” she says.
“This is a very specific study of people who just had a heart attack in the hospital,” he says. “The marijuana users were younger, mostly male, and they didn’t have the usual risk factors that caused heart attacks.”
They fared better after their heart attacks, but Ajijola says that’s likely because they had fewer risk factors for heart problems in the first place.
“I think marijuana use just helps identify lower risk factors and younger people.”