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BEWARE: Marijuana Users More Likely to Experience Temporary Weakening of Heart Muscles

Nov 14, 2016 04:58 AM EST

A new study revealed that people who are smoking marijuana are more likely to experience an uncommon heart muscle malfunction that can mimic the symptoms of a heart attack.

The study, presented at the 2016 annual scientific conference of the American Heart Association, showed that marijuana use can induce a muscle weakness in the heart that is most often caused by acute stress or grief.

The condition, called stress cardiomyopathy, is usually described as the sudden, temporary weakening of the heart muscle, reducing the heart's ability to pump blood. Just like heart attack, stress cardiomyopathy, may present with chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness and sometimes fainting.

"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, M.D. study co-author and chief cardiology fellow at St. Luke's University Health Network in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in a press release.

For the study, the researchers tracked hospital admissions and outcomes of 33,343 patients with stress cardiomyopathy from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample data from 2003 to 2011. The study sample was then divided into two groups based on their marijuana use. The first group consisted of 210 patients who either reported marijuana use or have been tested positive for marijuana markers, while the remaining patients have no history of marijuana use.

According to the report from CNN, the researchers found that marijuana users, despite being younger and with fewer risk factors, were more likely to experience negative outcomes of stress cardiomyopathy, including cardiac arrest and abnormal heart rhythms compared to non-marijuana users.

Usually, stress cardiomyopathy tends to occur on older women. However, the patients included in the retrospective study have the average age of 44 years old and 36 percent of them are male.

Marijuana users are also more likely to have a history of depression, psychosis, anxiety disorder, alcoholism, tobacco use and multiple substance abuse, , compared to non-users.

With these findings, the researchers advised recreational marijuana users to visit health care professionals when they develop chest pain and shortness of breath.

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