The risk of death from hypertension is three times greater in adults who use marijuana, compared with nonusers, based on data from a retrospective study of 1,213 adults.
According to an article in Cardiology News, the recent changes in the legalization of marijuana may promote increased recreational use, but data on the long-term effects of marijuana use on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular mortality are limited, wrote Barbara A. Yankey, PhD, of Georgia State University, Atlanta, and her colleagues.
The researchers collected data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from adults aged 20 years and older who were asked between 2005 and 2006 whether they had ever used marijuana, and those who answered “yes” were defined as users. Data on 686 users and 527 nonusers were combined with the 2011 mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics.
Overall, marijuana users had a 3.42 times greater risk of death from hypertension than did nonusers (95% confidence interval, 1.20-9.79), and the risk increased by 1.04 for each year of use (95% CI, 1.00-1.07). The average duration of marijuana use was 11.5 years. At the time of study entry, the average age of the participants was 38 years, and the average body mass index was 29 kg/m2; 23% of marijuana users and 21% of nonusers had a prior diagnosis of hypertension.
Of the study participants, 20% used marijuana and smoked cigarettes, 16% used marijuana and were past smokers, 5% were past smokers, and 4% only smoked cigarettes. “In our study, increase in risk for hypertension, [heart disease], or cerebrovascular disease mortality associated with cigarette use was not significant,” the researchers wrote. They attributed this factor to the small sample size and noted that the dangers of cigarette smoking to the cardiovascular system are well established.
The study findings were limited by the relatively small sample size and potentially inaccurate data on the duration of marijuana use, the researchers said.
However, the results suggest that “cardiovascular risk associated with marijuana use may be greater than the cardiovascular risk already established for cigarette smoking,” and longitudinal studies are warranted, they concluded.
Source: The European Journal of Preventive Cardiology