Medical Cannabis and High Blood Pressure (HBP): Is It A Boon or a Bane?14 March 2023
- High blood pressure (HBP) or hypertension is a condition wherein your blood pressure is higher than it should be. This can lead to serious health problems if left untreated.
- Cannabis use is suggested to have an effect on blood pressure and heart rate. While current evidence is conflicting, experts generally agree that cannabis use can mildly increase BP levels.
- Some evidence suggests that medical cannabis can be used to lower blood pressure. In particular, CBD has been shown to reduce BP in both laboratory and clinical studies.
- A growing body of research suggests that medical cannabis can help with many cardiovascular conditions linked to blood pressure. With the right dose, medical cannabis may help reduce obesity, decrease reliance on smoking, and counter stress.
- Still, the link between cardiovascular complications and cannabis use remains unclear and dependent on the case. Patients seeking medical cannabis for high blood pressure should always consult a doctor first to ensure that it is the proper treatment for their condition.
High blood pressure (HBP) is a common condition affecting about one in three adults. It’s also known as hypertension and is usually caused by an underlying medical condition or lifestyle issues, such as being overweight or smoking. High blood pressure can lead to serious health problems over time, such as stroke and heart disease.
With the increased use of cannabis both for medicinal and recreational purposes, there is a growing fear that it can worsen HBP. One of the most common (and immediate) side effects of cannabis use is an increased heart rate. Unsurprisingly, some fear that this could lead to an increase in blood pressure.
On the other hand, some claim that medical cannabis can help with hypertension. So, is cannabis good or bad for blood pressure? The answer is not as simple as it might seem.
In this article, we’ll look at whether medical cannabis can help with hypertension or worsen it. We’ll also discuss the effect of cannabis on heart rate and blood pressure.
High blood pressure: causes, diagnosis, and treatment
High blood pressure is a common problem that affects millions, but it’s not always easy to detect. When your heart pushes blood through your body, it makes your blood vessels expand and contract. This puts pressure on the walls of the arteries and can cause them to harden over time. When this happens, you may feel chest pains or headaches because of how much stress there is on your body.
High blood pressure may be difficult to recognise at first. If you experience any of the following symptoms, see a doctor right away:
- Headaches that don’t respond to pain medicines
- Dizziness or fainting when getting up from a lying position
- Chest pains or pressure when breathing or lying down
- A feeling of weakness in your arms, hands and legs
- Weight loss for no reason at all
What causes HBP?
Many factors can cause high blood pressure, including:
- having diabetes or being overweight
- having high cholesterol
- smoking cigarettes
- drinking alcohol excessively
- having an unhealthy diet (such as eating lots of processed foods)
- getting too little exercise or being inactive all together
How is hypertension diagnosed?
If you have symptoms of high blood pressure, such as headaches or chest pain, your doctor may ask you to monitor your blood pressure at home.
You can do this by using a device called a sphygmomanometer. The device has an inflatable cuff that fits snugly around your arm and inflates with air to measure the pressure in your arteries. If you have high blood pressure, then this test will show what level it is at.
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). Normal blood pressure is considered to be less than 120/80 mmHg.
Alternatively, you can have your blood pressure measured by a device called an oscillometer. This type of measurement is more accurate than simply measuring the cuff pressure. The device measures the pressure in your arteries using sound waves. It is more accurate than a sphygmomanometer, but it’s also more expensive and can only be used by trained professionals.
How is hypertension treated?
If you have high blood pressure, your doctor will probably recommend a treatment plan that includes lifestyle changes and medication. Lifestyle changes include losing weight, eating a healthy diet, exercising more frequently and reducing salt intake.
Medications can lower your blood pressure. They include diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and beta blockers.
If lifestyle changes and medication are insufficient to lower your blood pressure, doctors may recommend other treatments, such as angioplasty or surgery. Treating hypertension is important because it can cause serious health problems if left untreated.
Why should you be concerned about high blood pressure
High blood pressure is a common medical condition where the force of the blood against your artery walls is too high. The result of this increased pressure can be damage to the arteries and kidneys as well as an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
HBP is also a significant risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. It can also contribute to other health issues like vision loss and dementia.
In the most severe cases, high blood pressure can cause damage to the brain and eyes. You may have heard that high blood pressure is called a “silent killer” because it doesn’t always have symptoms. But it’s not always silent. If you’re at risk for high blood pressure, you may experience symptoms like headaches, dizziness and fatigue.
HBP is also a symptom of other medical concerns, including:
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Sleep apnea (a condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep)
Does cannabis affect blood pressure?
The answer to whether cannabis can affect blood pressure is not a clear-cut one. However, most experts believe that cannabis affects heart rate and blood pressure. Some people experience an increase in both, while others may experience a lowering of the BP.
Several factors explain how cannabis might affect blood pressure. For instance, the dosage can drastically alter one’s experience with cannabis. High doses of cannabis (notably THC) have been shown to increase blood pressure significantly. Those with pre-existing conditions should be wary about their medical cannabis intake and consult with their doctor before taking it.
Another factor that affects blood pressure is the individual’s tolerance and sensitivity to cannabis. Some people are more sensitive than others, which can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
THC versus CBD for high blood pressure
Patients should also consider what kind of medical cannabis they’re taking. Cannabis contains two primary cannabinoids: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
THC is a compound known for its psychoactive effects. CBD, on the other hand, does not induce any kind of “high”. As for their effects on blood pressure and heart rate, the two vastly differ.
THC and blood pressure
While acute or short-term use of cannabis can lead to increased blood pressure, constant medication use can lead to the reverse effect. A 2021 clinical study published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine found that cannabis treatment reduces blood pressure among older adults.
In the study, the researchers administered THC to 38 participants for three (3) months in the study. They found that those who continued treatment showed significant drops in blood pressure values. Those sensitive to blood pressure changes, particularly older adults, should be wary of using cannabis (in any form).
Some conflicting evidence suggests that THC may help lower HBP even in acute cases. A 2013 study published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine found that people who smoked cannabis had lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure than those who didn’t use it. However, the challenge was replicating the results in a clinical setting with properly administered doses.
CBD and blood pressure
In contrast to THC, there’s solid evidence that CBD can help lower blood pressure in the short term. Preclinical studies suggest that CBD induces the relaxation of blood vessels, which lowers blood pressure.
One study from 2017 published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that CBD lowered blood pressure in mice with high blood pressure. The researchers concluded that this compound might help treat hypertension.
A 2020 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that CBD reduces BP at rest after acute dosing. Continued dosing within seven days also showed improvement in artery stiffness. Before this finding, the same researchers conducted a similar trial in 2017, which showed similar results.
Other ways cannabis can affect blood pressure and heart rate
Cannabis, especially when consumed in large doses, can indirectly impact blood pressure and heart rate. Uncontrolled consumption can cause a racing heart and rapid heartbeat. This is because high amounts of THC can stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and can cause one’s heart rate to speed up.
Blood pressure is also closely linked to stress levels. People who use medical cannabis sometimes use it to calm down after stressful events, which can help lower blood pressure. The calming effect of cannabis is also linked to reducing stress hormone levels in the body.
Cannabis has also been shown to reduce inflammation throughout the body. Some studies have suggested that this may be one of the reasons medical cannabis could help with hypertension.
Since blood pressure is affected by so many factors, it can be difficult to pinpoint whether an increase (or decrease) in BP is caused by cannabis alone. Moreover, cannabis has varying effects on different people. As such, it can be challenging to determine whether there is a direct correlation between cannabis use and blood pressure.
Is medical cannabis bad for high blood pressure?
Medical cannabis is not necessarily bad for blood pressure. But it’s important to note that there is a correlation between cannabis use and high blood pressure. Additionally, there is evidence linking cannabis use (or rather, misuse) with increased risks of cardiovascular disease.
Nevertheless, the link between medical cannabis for high blood pressure and cardiovascular is nearly non-existent. In most clinical trials involving medical cannabis, changes in blood pressure levels were primarily short-term and generally harmless.
Patients with hypertension should still consult their doctor before using medical cannabis. Those on blood pressure medication should be aware of the possible interactions between the two. The effects of medical cannabis on blood pressure may vary depending on the delivery method, dosage, and other pre-existing conditions. You can schedule an online consultation with one of the expert doctors at the Medical Cannabis Clinics to evaluate whether medical cannabis is a good treatment option for you.
Cannabis and the cardiovascular system: potential benefits and uses
The majority of data on cannabis and cannabinoids suggest harmful effects on the cardiovascular system. Cannabis use – whether medicinal or recreational – is often reported to lead to short-term adverse effects.
Nevertheless, newer studies are now bringing to light the potential benefits of medical cannabis. A growing body of research supports using cannabis as a therapeutic remedy for cardiovascular conditions.
Medical cannabis may reduce smoking rates
The potential benefits of medical cannabis are primarily indirect. A 2013 double-blinded placebo study found that administering CBD through an inhaler led to a 40% smoking reduction in the treatment group compared to placebo. Cigarette smoking is linked to a plethora of cardiovascular conditions, including coronary heart disease and stroke.
Medical cannabis may help counter obesity and diabetes
Obesity and diabetes are two of the biggest modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Medical cannabis may help reduce obesity and diabetes by regulating the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is involved in appetite regulation and energy metabolism.
A 2017 study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that states with medical cannabis laws had lower rates of obesity than non-medical states. Furthermore, the 2013 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (US) found a link between cannabis use and a lower prevalence of obesity and diabetes mellitus.
THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, may lower levels of fasting insulin. The researchers of the survey proposed that THC could have potential use in the management of obesity.
Medical cannabis may provide various benefits to the lymphatic system
The term “cardiovascular system” is closely linked to the heart and blood vessels. However, it also includes important networks such as the vasculature (the network of veins and arteries) and lymphatic system (a major part of the immune system).
Cannabis has been found to have significant effects on these systems, including:
- Reducing heart rate by activating a type of receptor called CB1 receptors in the brain/spinal cord (CB1 receptors are also activated by endocannabinoids naturally produced by our bodies)
- Improving cholesterol levels and reducing inflammation associated with atherosclerosis;
- Improving circulation through dilating arteries and veins; reducing platelet aggregation (clumping together), which can lead to blood clots;
- Preventing plaque buildup on artery walls
- Increasing nitric oxide production within blood vessels by activating eNOS protein production via CB2 receptors
Conclusion – Medical Cannabis for Hypertension
High blood pressure is perhaps the most common and dangerous cardiovascular disorder. Left uncontrolled, it can lead to various other health problems and even death. So it’s not surprising that people with high blood pressure are eager to find relief in any way possible.
The jury is still out on whether cannabis increases or decreases blood pressure in the short term. Some evidence shows that cannabis (more particularly THC) mildly increases BP. Other studies suggest that CBD can help lower blood pressure and heart rate.
The long-term effects of cannabis on the cardiovascular system are still unknown, but it’s clear that there are potential benefits. The potential risks and benefits must be weighed against each other to determine whether or not an individual’s needs outweigh any adverse consequences of using medical cannabis for high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure and are considering medical cannabis for your condition, consult your doctor or a registered physician.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is medical cannabis good for high blood pressure?
The use of medical cannabis for high blood pressure is still controversial. While some evidence shows its potential in alleviating hypertension, there’s also strong evidence that it can adversely affect the cardiovascular system.
Does CBD help high blood pressure?
Preclinical and clinical studies suggest that CBD may help reduce blood pressure, but more research is needed. If you are considering CBD for hypertension, you should talk to your doctor first.
How is medical cannabis used for high blood pressure?
There are several ways to use medical cannabis for high blood pressure, including oils and tinctures, edibles, topicals, capsules and sprays. All of these methods have their benefits and drawbacks.
Can you take CBD if you have high blood pressure?
CBD alone does not appear to have adverse effects on blood pressure. On the contrary, there is some evidence that it may even have positive effects.
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