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Many patients new to cannabis often wonder about the potential side effects of its use. As high blood pressure is one of the US’ most common health concerns, the question of "can marijuana increase blood pressure?" pops up with increased frequency. The answer, however, isn’t quite so simple.
Some research indicates that, yes, marijuana does increase blood pressure. But not for everyone, and not all cannabis. Emerging science shows that it might lower blood pressure for different demographics, and CBD, too, shows promising signs in this regard. However, like so much regarding cannabis research, the science is inconclusive.
While the field still needs several clinical trials to come to clear answers, this article explores what we know so far about marijuana and its impact on blood pressure.
What Is Blood Pressure?
Quite simply, blood pressure is the strength of the blood moving oxygen and energy through your cardiovascular system. As your heart beats, it pumps blood through the body, and the efficiency of its movement directly relates to normal heart health. Blood pressure is measured using two numbers:
- Systolic blood pressure refers to the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
- Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats.
Standard blood pressure numbers are usually at or below 120/80 mm hg. As blood pressure increases, it reaches elevated levels (120-129/80 mm hg) before arriving at Stage 1 (130-139/80-90 mm hg) and subsequently Stage 2 (140/90 or higher mm hg) high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Any level beyond 180/120 mm hg requires immediate medical attention.
High Blood Pressure
Hypertension is blood pressure at higher-than-normal levels. Hypertension induces long-term force against your artery walls long enough that it may cause health issues such as heart disease.
Blood pressure usually changes throughout the day based on activity, but blood pressure with consistently higher than normal levels may result in a high blood pressure diagnosis.
One officially earns a diagnosis starting at 130/80 mm hg with Stage 1 high blood pressure. If levels exceed 140/90 mm hg, that qualifies as Stage 2 high blood pressure.
Low Blood Pressure
Hypotension, or low blood pressure, is when blood pressure drops below the expected levels’ threshold. Most doctors define low blood pressure as anything below 90/60 mm hg and only treat the condition when accompanied by unwanted symptoms. Most people have no problems with low blood pressure, but it can cause dizziness and fainting for some.
The Dangers of High Blood Pressure
Prolonged excessive pressure on arteries can damage both blood vessels and organs. The more prolonged high blood pressure lasts, and the stronger it gets, the greater risk of damage.
High blood pressure, untreated, can lead to:
How Marijuana Impacts Blood Pressure
To date, most of the little research examining marijuana’s impact on blood pressure has been observational, measuring the association between factors and outcomes. These are less reliable than randomized clinical studies, but they give us some answers.
A systematic review early in 2020 found that two million people in the US with heart disease have reported using cannabis and indicated that smoking marijuana might present similar risks to smoking tobacco. Another observational study observed an increase in cannabis-related hospital visits following Colorado’s recreational legalization. While the emergency-room trips were related to intoxication and vomiting, there was a noticeable difference between smoked and ingested marijuana.
However, more recent studies have shown that marijuana lowers blood pressure. An analysis of elderly adults with hypertension saw a reduction in blood pressure values following cannabis use.
CBD, too, may have a different impact on blood pressure than THC, and CBD is more calming and less intoxicating than THC and may lower heart rate and blood pressure. A few animal and clinical studies have observed that small doses of CBD in healthy participants decreased blood pressure.
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Indirect Impact on Blood Pressure
There are other pathways in which marijuana may impact blood pressure. Many users report an increased sense of hunger and craving for salty or sweet foods when using cannabis. Consumption of these foods may, in turn, increase blood pressure – so one could casually connect cannabis use with the change.
Frequently Asked Questions
What effect, if any, does marijuana have on blood pressure?
The science is inconclusive. Some experts currently believe that those with high blood pressure should avoid smoking cannabis due to more observational and anecdotal reports. However, more research is needed to truly understand the benefits or risks of cannabis for those with hypertension.
Can medical marijuana be used to treat hypertension?
While more evidence is needed, there are promising early reports of medical marijuana’s ability to lower blood pressure in older adults with hypertension. High-CBD medical marijuana may potentially help lower blood pressure.
Is marijuana good for high blood pressure?
There isn’t enough evidence to definitively say that marijuana is good for high blood pressure. A handful of small studies have pointed to cannabis use, specifically CBD, as promising treatments for lowering blood pressure.