High blood pressure is a common condition and it’s also one that is associated with many serious health conditions. High blood pressure can often be lowered to a healthier range with lifestyle changes or medications, but what about the relationship between marijuana and high blood pressure?
Does marijuana cause high blood pressure, or can it help decrease it? To understand the relationship, it’s important to understand what blood pressure is and how it affects people.
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure, as the name implies, refers to the force of blood pushed around your body and more specifically against the sides of your blood vessels. If you have high blood pressure, which is also called hypertension, you may not even notice the symptoms, but it can significantly raise your risk of heart attack and stroke, along with other serious conditions.
A blood pressure reading consists of two numbers, one of which is shown on the top and one which is on the bottom. The top number is your systolic blood pressure, and it’s the highest pressure reached when your heart is contracting. The lower number is diastolic blood pressure, the lowest level of pressure achieved when your heart is between beats.
Having high blood pressure can cause weakened or damaged blood vessels because your heart is straining itself. The higher your blood pressure, the more you’re at risk for health problems. For example, high blood pressure can lead to heart failure, heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease.
If you have high blood pressure combined with other issues like high cholesterol or diabetes, your risk of developing serious problems are even higher.
Hypertension specifically refers to having prolonged or chronic high blood pressure. Some of the factors that can contribute to high blood pressure and hypertension include stress, kidney disease, diet and being overweight.
If you do have high blood pressure, there are certain lifestyle changes you can make to lower it. Such changes include consuming less salt, eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking less alcohol.
Does Marijuana Affect Blood Pressure?
Some people wonder if marijuana affects blood pressure because other lifestyle choices can have a significant impact on blood pressure, like drinking and smoking cigarettes.
There are some differences in the short-term and long-term effects of marijuana on blood pressure. When someone first consumes marijuana, they often experience a moderate increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Then, following that initial spike, they have a decrease in blood pressure.
There has also been conflicting research showing that marijuana is associated with some long-term cardiovascular risks including elevated blood pressure.
In a study published in 2016, using data from over 12,000 people over a period of 7 years, a small increase in systolic blood pressure was observed in those who used marijuana within the previous 30 days compared with those who had never used marijuana. Importantly, this study emphasizes the need for further research in this area, with more controlled conditions.
There are a few other factors to consider when discussing marijuana and high blood pressure. The first is that if you do use marijuana, it may increase your appetite and lead you to make poor dietary choices, so in this way, it could indirectly affect blood pressure. Also, if you are smoking marijuana as opposed to consuming it in other ways, it can be detrimental to your cardiovascular health, just as smoking cigarettes is.
So, does marijuana cause high blood pressure? Probably not, but not enough research on the topic is published at this time to provide a definitive answer.
Key Points: Marijuana and Blood Pressure
As more states legalize marijuana, more people gain access to the drug. Many of those people will wonder how the effects of the substance affect their pre-existing conditions, like high blood pressure. When considering how marijuana affects blood pressure, keep the following key points in mind:
- Few studies have examined the link between marijuana and blood pressure
- Some studies showed a possible association between marijuana use and increased cardiovascular risk, but these results conflicted with other studies’ results
- Since marijuana can decrease inhibition and increase appetite, indirect effects on blood pressure are possible
- People should not rely on marijuana as a way to lower their blood pressure. Speaking to a physician about proven high blood pressure treatment is recommended.
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Sidney, S. “Cardiovascular Consequences of Marijuana Use.” November 2002. Accessed April 30, 2019. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Effects of High Blood Pressure.” July 2014. Accessed April 30, 2019.Alshaarawy, Omayma. “Cannabis Use and Blood Pressure Levels: United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005–2012.” National Institutes of Health, August 2016. Accessed April 30, 2019.
Sidney, S. “Cardiovascular Consequences of Marijuana Use.” November 2002. Accessed April 30, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Effects of High Blood Pressure.” July 2014. Accessed April 30, 2019.Alshaarawy, Omayma. “Cannabis Use and Blood Pressure Levels: United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005–2012.” National Institutes of Health, August 2016. Accessed April 30, 2019.