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Heart Health and Marijuana Use

Heart Health and Marijuana Use

Heart Health and Marijuana Use

As of January, Illinois joins the growing number of states where recreational use of marijuana is legal. Eleven states allow adults over the age of 21 to purchase weed for recreational use, and thirty-three allow it for medical use. While Mississippi doesn’t fall into either of those categories, many residents use the substance illegally and others will experiment when visiting states where it is legal. We urge caution for all our patients, but particularly those with heart problems.

Studies have shown marijuana use increases heart rate, dilates blood vessels, and forces the heart to pump harder. This effect increases the risk of heart attack in the hour after smoking pot. 

A more recent study in England found an enlargement of the heart in regular marijuana users. Former users who stopped consumption of pot had normal-sized hearts leading researchers to believe the effect is reversible.

Because marijuana is still illegal in many states and countries, few studies about the long term effects exist. More studies are needed to understand the effects of both medical and recreational use of weed on the body.

Heart Health

Just because you don’t use marijuana doesn’t mean you’re in the clear for heart disease though. Almost everyone has some risk factors for heart disease. Some we can’t control such as:

  • Male sex
  • Older age
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Being postmenopausal
  • Race (African-Americans, American Indians, and Mexican Americans are more likely to have heart disease than Caucasians.)

Other risk factors we can control:

  • Smoking
  • High LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and low HDL, or “good” cholesterol
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity (having a BMI greater than 25)
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • High C-reactive protein
  • Uncontrolled stress, depression, and anger
  • Poor diet
  • Alcohol use

We have a doctor, nurse practitioners, and a dietician on staff to assist you as you work to decrease your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health. 

What are congenital heart defects?

congenital heart defects

We celebrate February as heart month from paper hearts on Valentine’s Day to discussions on heart disease. In the midst of all those heart-to-hearts, we find congenital heart defects. Before we talk details, let’s break down the term. Congenital means at birth. Heart defects (or you may also hear ‘heart disease’) is an abnormality of how the heart forms. Congenital heart defects (CHD) occur when the heart or blood vessels near the heart do not form as they should before birth.

CHD is the most common birth defect with 1 in every 1,000 live births experiencing a heart defect.

How serious are congenital heart defects?

If your infant’s been diagnosed with a CHD, what you really want to know is how serious is it. CHD covers a span of eighteen different defects, with each defect having varying degrees of severity. A CHD could be as mild as a small ventricular septum defect that closes on its own and never affects your child’s growth or development to a more serious heart defect such as the rare single ventricle defect which can be fatal. Internet research offers plenty of detailed information, but your best information comes from conversations with your child’s cardiologist.

Good news for all parents and children with CHD is that most heart defects can be treated and/or repaired. Prognosis for children with CHD is better than it has ever been.

How is a CHD diagnosed?

Most heart defects are diagnosed with a few days of birth, although some defects may not be found until childhood or even adulthood. Keeping your child’s wellness checkups is one-way providers find and diagnose heart defects in older children.

How do I prevent CHD?

We don’t know the cause of every heart defect which means a mother cannot prevent every CHD. The Mayo Clinic suggests mothers ensure they are vaccinated against rubella before becoming pregnant, manage chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, discuss the effect of medications for chronic medical conditions on pregnancy with your physician, avoid harmful substances and take a multivitamin with folic acid.

What’s considered a CHD?

The list of CHD’s encompass 18 different defects. Click here for the most comprehensive list of heart defects along with information about each one from heart.org. It’s the most detailed list we’ve found.


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