Marijuana may be linked to cardiovascular disease, but evidence is scarce. Using data from the 2005 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and 2011 mortality files of the National Center for Health Statistics, researchers estimated mortality rates and hazard ratios (HR) for hypertension, heart disease, and cerebrovascular deaths among people who use marijuana compared with those who do not.
- There were 1213 participants (aged ≥20) with 19,569 person-years of follow-up. Average age at entry was 38 years. Overall, 34% had neither marijuana nor cigarette use; 21% used marijuana only; 20% used marijuana and cigarettes; 16% used marijuana and were past smokers. Average duration of marijuana use was 12 years.
- In models adjusted for socio-demographic and medical characteristics (including smoking, alcohol use, and presence of hypertension and cardiovascular disease diagnoses), people with marijuana use had an increased risk of hypertension mortality (HR, 3.42), compared with those who did not. The HR for each year of marijuana use was 1.04.
- Hazard ratios for heart disease and cerebrovascular deaths were not significant.
Comments: This study suggests that marijuana use may increase the risk for hypertension mortality. These results should be replicated in a study assessing marijuana use over time, but raise concerns about the potential impact of recreational marijuana use on mortality from cardiovascular causes in an era of widespread legalization throughout the US.
Nicolas Bertholet, MD, MSc
Reference: Yankey BA, Rothenberg R, Strasser S, et al. Effect of marijuana use on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular mortality: A study using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey linked mortality file. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2017;24(17):1833–1840.