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New study links marijuana use to heart attack, stroke

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Middle-aged adults who smoke marijuana may develop cardiovascular-related complications that may result to death, a new study suggests.

According to the Journal of the American Heart Association, almost 2 percent of health problems caused by marijuana use were related to cardiovascular condition and a fourth of these led to death. The study studied 1,979 complications linked to marijuana use and 35 of these were heart-related, 10 were diseases related to limb arteries, 20 suffered heart attacks and 22 were heart-related. Nine patients among the 35 cases or 25.6 percent, died from cardiovascular complications. There are evidence that use of marijuana may increase blood clotting and significant effects in the tiny vessels that bring blood to the brain and heart that even after the blockage is cleared, the flow remains slow.

"One is left to wonder whether we need to consider 'pot heart' in addition to 'pot head,'" NYU Langone Medical Center associate professor of medicine in Cardiology Dr. Sripal Bangalore told CBS News. "Nevertheless, the growing body of evidence suggests that similar to statutory warning on smoking, similar warning should perhaps be considered for recreational marijuana use."

The study authors notes that the actual number of heart-related complications and deaths in marijuana users may be higher than what they found in the study. A lot of cases are unreported, making it difficult to trace which substance actually caused certain health complications. Previous research suggests that marijuana users usually develop substance abuse or dependence on alcohol and other drugs. Bangalore also notes that it is more difficult to detect the effects of marijuana in those who also drink alcohol and smoke tobacco.

"In prior research, we identified several remarkable cases of cardiovascular complications as the reasons for hospital admission of young marijuana users," author and medical faculty member at Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Toulouse Emilie Jouanjus, Pharm.D., Ph.D. said. "This unexpected finding deserved to be further analyzed, especially given that the medicinal use of marijuana has become more prevalent and some governments are legalizing its use."

Recent studies also connect marijuana use in people suffering for ischemic ulcers, increased angina and gangrene which is a blood flow blockage to extremities and mini-strokes or transcient ischemic attacks. Other health problems associated with marijuana use are obesity, high blood pressure, sedentary behavior and high cholesterol. People with existing cardiovascular issues are more prone to the dangerous effects of marijuana.

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