Cardiovascular Disease and CBD's Potential to Treat it | cannabisMD

CBD’s (Cannabidiol’s) Potential in Treating Cardiovascular Disease

How CBD has the potential to treat cardiovascular disease

Image Credit: By Master1305 on Shutterstock

Compared to other illnesses, cardiovascular disease (also known as heart disease) has received less attention from researchers of CBD (cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid with many potential pharmacological uses) and other hemp- and marijuana-derived treatments. Nevertheless, what research has been done so far on CBD as a potential treatment of cardiovascular disease does seem promising. CBD’s and THC’s anti-inflammatory properties are widely cited, and inflammation of cardiovascular tissue is part of heart disease. More attention on cardiovascular diseases and CBD is needed, especially because any possible treatment of cardiovascular disease, the leading killer of adults in both the United States and the wider world, could have wide-ranging effects on the quality and length of life of millions of people.

Cardiovascular Diseases

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a class of diseases affecting the heart and circulatory system. The most commonly occurring cardiovascular diseases fall within the category of coronary artery disease (CAD) and are typically signaled by intense chest pain. They include the following:

  • Angina
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Sudden cardiac death

Other common non-CAD CVS include the following:

  • Stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Heart failure
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Heart arrhythmia (palpitations)

Risk factors for cardiovascular diseases include the following:

  • Family history
  • Smoking tobacco, which is especially a major risk factor in atherosclerosis
  • Poor diet
  • Insufficient physical exercise
  • Occupational exposure to harmful substances including secondhand smoke
  • Sex, with cardiovascular disease more prevalent in men than in women

Psychological and sociological factors including the following:

  • Social isolation
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Depression
  • Stressful family and work life
  • Anxiety

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), the American Heart Association, the Mayo Clinic, and the World Health Organization have produced a wealth of information on how to prevent heart disease by living a healthy life. Quitting smoking cigarettes is by far the best way to promote cardiovascular health (and, for that matter, health in every other area of life).

Prevention

In 80 percent of cases, cardiovascular disease is avoidable through lifestyle changes and self-management including:

  • Quitting smoking tobacco. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Quitting is the best way to reduce your risk of heart disease and its complications.”
  • A healthy diet low in sugar and sodium (especially the Mediterranean diet)
  • Moderate exercise six times a week or vigorous exercise three or four times a week
  • Drinking: While very limited drinking (at most one drink a day for women) is acceptable, more drinking increases risk.

Conventional Medical Treatment

If you have sudden chest pain, palpitations, or an irregular heart beat, seek medical help immediately. First your doctor will diagnose what kind of heart disease you have. Once the kind of cardiac issue is determined, your doctor will prescribe treatment including the following:

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Diet
  • Monitoring and lowering blood pressure
  • Monitoring and lowering LDL cholesterol
  • Medications like beta blockers, diuretics, or blood thinners, depending on the kind of heart disease
  • In serious cases, surgery of the cardiovascular system including the heart or blood vessels

Effectiveness of cannabis-derived treatments

While THC-rich smoked marijuana has a complex effect on the heart, raising the pulse and increasing risk of cardiac episodes in the short term, there is accumulating evidence that cannabis-derived substances can treat cardiovascular issues, especially CDB (cannabidiol). CBD is not THC and therefore produces negligible psychoactive effects but rather interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system. CBD is showing promise in many other medical areas as well. CBD’s potential as a cardiovascular medicine is borne out by studies including the following:

  • CBD has been shown to be cardioprotective by decreasing arrhythmia and reducing infarct size in acute heart episodes.
  • A number of animal studies have shown CBD preserving tissue that is normally damaged in acute cardiovascular episodes.
  • An experiment on nine healthy human subjects published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in 2017 found that a single dose of CBD immediately decreased blood pressure in the subjects.
  • While the THC in cannabis has been shown to cause the heart rate and short-term blood pressure of lab rats to increase (similarly to how activities like sex and exercise temporarily increase heart rate and blood pressure), the short-term heart rate increase associated with THC is more prevalent in new users than those who have developed tolerance.
  • CBD is shown to be an antiarrhythmic, which means it counters heart palpitations.

In summary, while CBD does show clinical promise as a cardiovascular medicine, much more testing is needed. Researchers still don’t fully understand whether and how CB1 or CB2 receptors, or a combination of both, influence human hearts and the human cardiovascular system. If you live in an area where CBD is available and legal, and your doctor recommends it, give CBD a try alongside conventional treatments.

Heart disease is generally as preventable as it is deadly. The importance of a healthy lifestyle cannot be overstated. In the words of the Mayo Clinic staff,

It’s never too early to make healthy lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating healthy foods and becoming more physically active. These are primary lines of defense against heart disease and its complications

And if you or a loved one does suffer from heart disease, go to the doctor. Ask your doctor questions. Write down his or her advice, and follow it closely. With your doctor as your partner, you can prevent and manage heart disease and live a healthy life.

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
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