Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. That’s right. It’s not cancer, car crashes, or terrorism, but heart disease that’s America’s number one killer. So why don’t we hear about heart disease in the media more than we do all these other things that are supposed to scare us?
Broader heart disease awareness is perpetually hindered by one simple fact: Far too many people don’t know they have heart disease until it’s too late. Some studies indicate that nearly half of all heart attack cases aren’t even registered as heart attacks by patients. In recent months, late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel has tried to raise awareness by opening up about his infant son’s heart disease on his show. Kimmel’s son’s story is poignant in its implications on the U.S. healthcare climate, but it doesn’t necessarily raise awareness of the daily heart disease risk that most adults face.
Ultimately, if we’re going to decrease the fatal potency of heart disease, we need to know how to prevent it before it happens. For those aware of and currently suffering from heart disease conditions, it’s also good to know the full scope of treatment options (both traditional and alternative) available. The popular advent of cannabidiol (CBD) hemp oil in alternative medicine has proven fruitful for a wide variety of diseases and ailments. Is it possible that CBD may also be an effective tool in the fight against heart disease?
Let’s find out.
Heart Muscle Disease, Coronary Artery Disease, and CBD
When addressing the treatment of heart or cardiovascular disease (CVD), it’s important to be able to identify the different types, what pieces of the heart they effect and how they’re currently treated. For the purposes of exploring CBD’s potential to treat heart disease, we’ll narrow our discussion down to a crucial few and ask whether CBD can help treat them.
Heart muscle disease—or cardiomyopathy—is when the heart muscle itself becomes too weak to pump blood normally. Causes of cardiomyopathy depend largely on the subtype involved. For example, dilated cardiomyopathy is caused by everything from viral infections and pregnancy complications to alcohol and hard drug use. Hypertrophic heart muscle disease, on the other hand, is usually hereditary. Restrictive cardiomyopathy is a whole other ballgame, caused by a wide variety of other diseases like amyloidosis, sarcoidosis, and connective tissue disorder.
According to the American Heart Institute, treating cardiomyopathy involves a combination of the following:
There may not be an outright cure for heart disease, but prevention and proactive treatment of cardiomyopathy symptoms can help a patient achieve a normal, healthy life. CBD may or may not be effective in preventing or treating heart muscle disease, depending on the type you’re dealing with. If, for example, someone has inflammatory cardiomyopathy as a result of viral infection, CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties may be able to provide much needed symptom relief.
Coronary artery disease is a slightly different story. Also known as ischemic heart disease, it can often lead to heart muscle disease through plaque buildup in the heart’s arteries. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, diabetes, and genetics can all be causes of CAD. Men over 45 are at a greater risk of experiencing CAD, as are post-menopausal women. However, this doesn’t mean that younger people aren’t also at risk. According to Dr. Edward A. Fisher of the American heart Association:
“Coronary artery disease begins in childhood, so that by the teenage years, there is evidence that plaques that will stay with us for life are formed in most people […] Preventive measures instituted early are thought to have greater lifetime benefits. Healthy lifestyles will delay the progression of CAD, and there is hope that CAD can be regressed before it causes [coronary heart disease].”
In other words, prevention of CAD through healthy lifestyle choices is arguably the best way to treat and reduce the risk of the disease. In cases where ischemia (inadequate blood supply to the heart) is already present, CBD may be effective as an anti-apoptotic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant in treating CAD.
Cerebrovascular Disease, Rheumatic Heart Disease and CBD
Cerebrovascular disease is the second most fatal form of heart disease. Like coronary artery disease, it’s characterized primarily by plaque buildup or blockage in the arteries, but specifically causes restrictions in blood flow to the brain. Most commonly, cerebrovascular disease leads to a stroke. Other complications include aneurysms, ischemic attacks, and brain damage.
Cerebrovascular disease is the most common fatal neurological disorder in the U.S., while cerebrovascular strokes are the third leading cause of death. Most of the risk factors involved in cerebrovascular disease—high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, obesity, and physical inactivity—are fairly common conditions, arguably making prevention a much more effective treatment tactic. Treating the disease when it’s already present is usually done with medications. For patients who have already suffered brain damage or ruptured arteries, physical, occupational, or speech therapy will probably be necessary. If you have a cerebrovascular condition (or have a higher risk of one) as a result of high blood pressure, CBD may be an effective, natural blood pressure medication. Studies have shown that a single dose of CBD can significantly reduce blood pressure.
Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is another condition that derives from a separate illness, damaging the heart valves and adversely affecting heart function. RHD is a complication of rheumatic fever, which in turn is an inflammatory disease that derives from bad cases of strep throat. In addition to strep throat, symptoms of a rheumatic fever that may lead to RHD include a high fever, feelings of general illness, and irritated or swollen joints. Generally, there are no immediate, visible symptoms of heart damage, which is why it’s important to treat rheumatic fever conditions as early as possible.
Because it’s generally an effective anti-inflammatory, CBD could assist in reducing the inflammation associated with rheumatic fever. For those who have heart complications as a result of childhood rheumatic fever, CBD oil may be an appropriate substitute for pills or other sleep aid medications. There are risks associated with other forms of medical marijuana in treating rheumatic conditions, so it’s important to use caution.
Fighting Heart Disease with CBD Hemp Oil
So what have we learned so far? In the specific types of heart disease we’ve already addressed CBD has been most helpful as either a preventative measure, or treatment for specific heart disease symptoms. CBD is an isolated component of cannabis, increasingly valued for its isolated medicinal properties. For many illnesses, a full cannabis strain is recommended because the remedial effects are more potent when all cannabis compounds are working together. For heart conditions, however, the risk of negative side effects may be too great to entertain anything other than safer isolates like CBD hemp oil.
What is CBD Hemp Oil?
Despite the changing values surrounding both medical and recreational marijuana in the U.S., age-old stigmas still prevent us from figuring out how to use cannabis to its full remedial potential. Perhaps that’s why CBD hemp oil is becoming more widely popular than any other medical cannabis product. CBD oil is an extract from high-CBD, low-THC hemp plants. THC is the most prominent cannabis compound—responsible for the plant’s psychoactive effects. CBD is non psychoactive, and therefore more broadly medicinal (as well as legal). CBD hemp oil only contains trace amounts of THC, and 100% THC-free oils are becoming more common in the industry.
CBD’s therapeutic value lies in the way it interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). When activated, the ECS has a stabilizing effect on other systems in the body. When external factors throw the body off balance, the ECS puts it back on track. CBD oil is used to treat various illnesses by contributing to the health and proper function of the endocannabinoid system. Most hemp oils include other medicinal compounds like terpenes, vitamins, and other essential oils.
Hemp Oil and Heart Disease
So how might hemp oil provide relief for heart disease patients? A preliminary study from 2012 showed CBD’s potential to help increase blood flow in certain arteries, help repair ischemic injuries, and protect the cardiovascular system.
Much more research is required to determine how consistently CBD can offer these benefits. In the meantime CBD extracts are readily available, low-risk hemp products that heart disease patients can try with a relative degree of safety—especially when under the care of a physician.
For more information on the implications of THC on heart disease treatment, read CBD oil or THC oil? Which is better for treating heart disease?
Other Hemp Products
CBD hemp oil isn’t the only hemp product on the market. Other products may also prove useful in the treatment of heart disease and other heart-related illnesses.
Hemp seed oil, though similar to CBD hemp oil, is extracted from the hemp seed specifically for omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. According to a recent study from Spain, Hemp seed oil may help lower the risk of heart disease when incorporated into a heart-healthy diet. According to Grant Pierce, Executive Director of Reuters Health, hemp seed oil “has several potentially important bioactive compounds that could have beneficial cardiovascular effects.” He also notes that, though hemp seed oil’s cardiovascular benefits are slightly less potent, they are similar to that of flaxseed oil, a well-established cardiovascular health supplement.
In addition to hemp seed oil, hemp seeds themselves may significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. Hemp seeds contain arginine, which has the ability to lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of inflammation. Hemp seeds may also be able to decrease blood clots and hemp the body heal after a heart attack.
Hemp seeds are also rich in Gamma-Linolenic acid (GLA), a compound that soothes muscles, reduces inflammation, and regulates several body functions. In addition to helping with heart disease, GLA has been found to help with ADHD, breast pain, obesity, skin allergies, and diabetes.
Hemp milk is another readily available product that offers similar health benefits to hemp seeds. Since it’s usually made from hemp seeds, it contains many of the same compounds that benefit the heart. It’s also less likely to cause allergic reactions associated with nut milk. Products like hemp tea or infusion drinks are probably less beneficial to the heart, as they’re typically designed.
In terms of what we do know, CBD is yet to change the trending climate of heart disease treatment. Prevention and delaying progression are still the primary modes of heart disease relief. For now, it seems more likely that CBD products contribute to the status quo, rather than move swiftly beyond it.
We may need much more research to determine whether CBD has the potential to revolutionize heart disease treatment, but the possibility is still imminent. The homeostatic properties of the endocannabinoid system make CBD an invaluable part of future medical research—including the treatment of heart disease. If you suffer from a heart condition, talk to a physician about your particular set of symptoms, see if CBD’s confirmed benefits will work for you, and consider trying low-risk CBD products.