Heart disease continues to be a leading cause of mortality worldwide, affecting both men and women. However, men face a higher risk and are more likely to develop heart disease at a younger age compared to their female counterparts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is responsible for approximately 1 in every 4 male deaths in the United States. In 2020 alone, it was responsible for the deaths of 382,776 men. The increased risk faced by men is partially attributed to hormonal differences and various lifestyle factors that may predispose men to heart disease. Obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, sedentary lifestyle, and stress are some of the most common risk factors that contribute to the development of heart disease in men. Let’s explore how cannabis can help with that.
How can cannabis help prevent heart disease?
Inflammation management: Inflammation of the arteries is the primary symptom that is seen in cardiovascular patients. Inflammation in the arteries can be caused by stress or high blood sugar and leads to cholesterol and plaque buildup, which in turn leads to heart attack. The plaque that accumulates in the arteries is your body’s natural scaffolding to hold open the inflamed artery. But too much of a good thing can create the opposite effect - a fully blocked artery that leads to heart attack. Partially blocked arteries also cause high blood pressure. Cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD) have demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties in some studies. While cannabis research is still limited, CBD's potential anti-inflammatory effects could theoretically have a positive impact on cardiovascular health.
Stress management: For many people, cannabis can be an integral part of a balanced lifestyle. Stress hormones, specifically cortisol, can wreak havoc on the human body, creating imbalances. The arteries that pump blood from the heart can easily become inflamed due to high levels of cortisol, resulting in plaque buildup meant to keep the arteries open. This is why you may have heard someone say their chest hurts when they are experiencing extreme stress, or just after the stressful event has passed. Developing healthy coping mechanisms and finding effective ways to manage stress is vital for heart health. Cannabis coupled with activities like exercise, meditation, or hobbies that promote relaxation and emotional well-being can lead to positive results for most people.
Sleep management: Poor sleeping habits can cause an almost infinite amount of risk factors, including high blood pressure, inflammation, and increased stress hormone levels. A good night’s sleep is one of the pillars of a healthy lifestyle, alongside proper diet and physical activity. Cannabis has been shown to aid in sleep for most people in numerous scientific studies, and, anecdotal evidence is overwhelmingly positive towards cannabis as a sleep aid. When using cannabis for sleep, pay attention to how your body reacts to different THC, CBD, and other cannabinoid levels. In my case, a moderate amount of both THC with CBD with full spectrum terpenes does the trick, whereas a high THC low CBD generally keeps me awake. This is why many sleepy lines of edibles are formulated in this way.
Maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle, including regular physical activity, a balanced diet, stress & sleep management, and avoiding tobacco use, remains the foundation for preventing heart disease. Cannabis can not only fit into this healthy lifestyle, but promote it. CBD and THC can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, motivate the mind to do something active and physical, and can replace drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco products. For many people, the incentive of smoking a joint on top of that mountain is enough to get the legs moving and climb the mountain. Cannabis inspired yoga classes, meditation sessions, and social events are becoming more popular, and can help motivate us to get our body, mind, and spirit active and healthy - all important factors for a healthy heart.
All of these benefits are dependent upon the individual who uses CBD and THC. The body’s metabolism, the user’s knowledge and comfort with THC and CBD, as well as one’s beliefs about cannabis and lifestyle will have a role to play. It is important to recognize that individual responses to cannabis can vary. Factors such as the specific cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis, dosage, frequency of use, mode of consumption, and individual health conditions can influence the potential benefits. If you have concerns about heart disease or are considering cannabis use, it is advisable to have an open and honest conversation with your healthcare provider to make informed decisions based on your individual circumstances and medical history.