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New research: cannabis could help heart failure patients

Sara Tiradossi

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Previous studies had suggested links between cannabis use and heart problems, but new research is now finding cannabis may be beneficial for people at risk for heart failure.

At a recent meeting of the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in California, researchers found cannabis users were less likely to experience atrial fibrillation (A-fib), an irregularity of the heartbeat that can worsen the symptoms of heart failure, compared to non-users.

The researchers had hypothesized cannabis users were at greater risk of heart-related health problems, therefore they were surprised to find out about the plant’s benefits for people with heart failure.

The study also found heart failure patients who used cannabis were less likely to die in the hospital than those who did not use it.

“I was very surprised that it was actually a reduced association I found,” lead author of the study Dr. Oluwole Adegbala, a medical resident at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in New Jersey, said.

Adegbala and colleagues analyzed over 6 million patients suffering from heart failure who were admitted to the hospital between 2007 and 2014. According to LiveScience reports, around 23,000 of these patients reportedly used cannabis but were not considered dependent on the drug, and another 1,200 patients were considered dependent cannabis users.

The nondependent cannabis users were 18 percent less likely than non-users to experience A-fib, and were also 46 percent less likely to die in the hospital. The dependent cannabis users were 31 percent less likely to develop A-fib and 58 percent less likely to die in the hospital than non-users. Researchers adjusted their data to account for age, socioeconomic status, and use of other drugs, and discovered their findings were still solid.

Adegbala added he was not able to identify the reasons why cannabis might decrease the risk of A-fib or mortality for heart failure patients. Despite the new findings, the researchers do not currently recommend that heart failure patients use cannabis. More studies on the links between cannabis use and a reduced likelihood of atrial fibrillation need to confirm the results.

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New research: cannabis could help heart failure patients