Stress cardiomyopathy is an uncommon heart muscle malfunction that can mimic heart attack symptoms. It is a sudden, usually temporary, weakening of
the heart muscle that reduces the heart's ability to pump, leading to
chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness and sometimes fainting.
Active marijuana use may double the risk of stress cardiomyopathy, revealed a research presented at the American Heart Association's
Scientific Sessions 2016.
‘Marijuana users were almost twice as likely to develop stress cardiomyopathy compared to non-users, even after taking other cardiovascular risk factors into consideration.’
The researchers found that marijuana users were almost twice as
likely to develop stress cardiomyopathy compared to non-users, even
after taking other cardiovascular risk factors into consideration.
Active marijuana use was identified either by information provided by
the patient in their medical history, or by a marker in the patient's
"The effects of marijuana, especially on the cardiovascular system,
are not well known yet. With its increasing availability and
legalization in some states, people need to know that marijuana may be
harmful to the heart and blood vessels in some people," said Amitoj
Singh, study co-author and chief cardiology fellow at St. Luke's
University Health Network in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample identified 33,343 people
who were hospitalized with stress cardiomyopathy between 2003-2011 in
the United States. Of those, 210 (less than 1%) were also
identified as marijuana users.
Compared with non-users, researchers found that marijuana users were
more likely to be younger, male with fewer cardiovascular risk factors,
including less high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
However, despite being younger and with fewer cardiovascular risk
factors than non-users, during stress cardiomyopathy the marijuana users
were significantly more likely to go into cardiac arrest (2.4%
vs. 0.8%) and to require an implanted defibrillator to detect and
correct dangerously abnormal heart rhythms (2.4% vs. 0.6%).
"This development of stress cardiomyopathy in younger patients who
used marijuana suggests a possible link that needs to be further
investigated," said Sahil Agrawal, co-author of the paper and also
a chief cardiology fellow at St. Luke's.
Marijuana users were more likely than non-users to have a history of
depression (32.9% vs. 14.5%), psychosis (11.9% vs.
3.8%), anxiety disorder (28.4% vs. 16.2%),
alcoholism (13.3% vs. 2.8%), tobacco use (73.3% vs.
28.6%) and multiple substance abuse (11.4% vs. 0.3%). Because some of these can increase the risk of stress
cardiomyopathy, the researchers adjusted for known risk factors to
investigate the association between marijuana use and stress
"If you are using marijuana and develop symptoms such as chest pain
and shortness of breath, you should be evaluated by a healthcare
provider to make sure you aren't having stress cardiomyopathy or another
heart problem," Singh said.
The study has some limitations. Because this was a retrospective
study, the researchers could not determine how frequently the marijuana
users were using marijuana, or what the time-frame was between the use of
marijuana and occurrence of stress cardiomyopathy.
studies are not designed to prove cause and effect; therefore, it cannot
be said that marijuana is or is not a direct cause of stress
cardiomyopathy. In addition, because the database the researchers used
reports regional but not state-by-state statistics, the researchers
could not analyze whether possibly marijuana-related heart problems are
increasing where use is legal.