Heart rhythm problems (heart arrhythmias, or an irregular heartbeat) occur when the electrical signals that coordinate the heart’s beats don’t work properly. The faulty signaling causes the heart to beat too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia) or irregularly. The most common type of arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation, which causes an irregular and fast heart beat. Cardiac arrhythmias can be caused by congenital heart defects, stress, smoking and heart attacks.
Whilst there is some evidence that smoking cannabis can cause cardiac arrhythmias, especially within the first 30 – 90 minutes. However, dosage seems to matter, as well as which type of arrhythmia. A low or moderate dose of THC can cause the heart to beat faster, an increase in cardiac output and an increase in blood pressure. In higher doses, THC can reduce heart rate and blood pressure. Low or moderate doses of THC may be preferred to prevent anxiety, and can reduce tension in some.
Clearly, the relationship between cannabis and the heart is complex, and there are many ways in which it can prove to be potentially useful or harmful. One size does not fit all.
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