Early cannabis use possibly linked to heart disease: University of Guelph study

More than half of cannabis users in Canada reported they turned to using more cannabis in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alexia Kapralos looks at why users are consuming more, and why the latest cannabis trends are concerning for some health professionals.

A recent study by the University of Guelph is showing that cannabis use by young adults could increase their risk of developing heart disease later in life.

It’s well-known that cigarette smoking affects cardiovascular health, causing changes to blood vessels and the heart, but less is known about the impact of smoking cannabis, the university said.

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“Scientists haven’t done that research with cannabis,” said Christian Cheung, a Guelph PhD student and lead author of the study.

“Cannabis is really widely used as a recreational substance all around the world and is becoming increasingly so.”

The university said Cheung and his team found “subtle but potentially important” changes in heart and artery function during their research.

They studied 35 people aged 19 to 30, half of whom have a history of consuming cannabis.

Researchers examined the stiffness and function of the subjects’ arteries and their ability to expand with greater blood flow.

The study showed arterial stiffness was greater in cannabis users than in non-users, and cardiac function was also lower than in non-user, but there was no change in artery dilation in response to changing blood flow.

By comparison, all three measures normally change in cigarette smokers.

The university said its researchers are planning further studies to learn about potential impacts of these changes and the risk of disease in people who use cannabis.

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“This is exciting new data, suggesting that even before more overt signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease are present, there may be more subtle indications in altered physiological function,” said Dr. Jamie Burr, a professor in the Human Performance and Health Research Lab.

“It also paves the way to our next studies, aimed at understanding the direct effects of cannabis consumption, and how this may interact with common stressors of everyday life, like exercise.”

The study has been published in the Journal of Applied Physiology and can be found here.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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