What should you know about cholesterol, cannabis and CBD?

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In 2016, 28.2 million adults in the U.S. were diagnosed with heart disease with a heart attack occurring every 40 seconds, according to the American Heart Association.

As the leading cause of death for men, women and people of most racial and ethnic groups, new research is being released every year that explores ways to eradicate the one in every four deaths that are heart disease-related, notes information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Heart health truly matters, not just because of the importance of the body’s ability to pump blood and gain oxygen, but because it is directly tied to overall health and aging.

Conditions such as high cholesterol, angina and heart disease often occur because of a heart not functioning at its proper capacity.

Understanding cholesterol

Cholesterol often has a bad reputation. Needed inside the body to make vitamin D, it’s a waxy substance found in all cells. With a healthy diet and exercise, many people can stave off high cholesterol levels. However, for those with a genetic history of high cholesterol, other recommendations come into play.

The Mayo Clinic recommends eating these top foods to help cholesterol numbers and also keep a heart healthy: high-fibre foods like oatmeal and bran cereal; Omega-3 fatty acids such as walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds; fish likemackerel, herring, tuna, salmon and trout); almonds; and avocados.

In a pinch, experts suggest eating colourful, leafy fruits and veggies, which are often low-fat and cholesterol-free.

Cannabis and CBD’s effects on the heart

CBD and marijuana seem to affect the heart in different ways, signaling that more research is needed to better understand how the body’s reacts to CBD and other cannabis compounds.

Board-certified cardiologist Dr. Adam Splaver shared that CBD could have an impact on heart health.“We are at the infancy of understanding the effects of CBD in cardiac health. There have been several studies, one of which looked at a single dose of CBD on healthy volunteers and they found it lowered blood pressure,” Dr. Splaver explained.

“Since we know high blood pressure is tied to cardiovascular events, lowering blood pressure by using CBD ( and not THC) can be beneficial to heart health,” he suggested.

In a 2012 study, published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, researchers found that direct application of CBD caused a reduction in vascular tension. While the application of CBD didn’t have an effect on blood pressure or heart rate, it did reduce the cardiovascular response to stress in non-humans.

“A small study published in 2017 suggested CBD ‘may’ have some effect on reducing stress-related systolic blood pressure.” /

“A small study published in 2017 suggested CBD ‘may’ have some effect on reducing stress-related systolic blood pressure.” / PHOTO BY JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES

Dr. Steven Reisman, a cardiologist at the New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center, says he believes individuals should be cautious with cannabis and CBD. Speaking to The Fresh Toast, Dr. Reisman explained that while there are no current peer-reviewed studies proving cannabis or CBD is efficacious in treating heart disease, “a small study published in 2017 suggested CBD ‘may’ have some effect on reducing stress-related systolic blood pressure.”

Dr. Reisman also spoke about the importance of lowering stress as it plays a key role in increasing the risk of a heart attack. “Some studies have shown an increase in heart attack and death following natural disasters, such as earthquakes, and also in relation to the stress involved with the loss of a loved one,” he noted.

With medical marijuana approved in some U.S. states for anxiety (New Jersey and Delaware), some individuals are finding THC and CBD bring peace and calm to stressful situations.

Dr. Splaver mentioned the importance of understanding marijuana and CBD have a long way to go. “It is also still too early to know the effects of CBD on cholesterol. There are several small studies that showed a positive effect. Do not stop taking your cholesterol medication and keep in mind the overall negative effects smoking has on your health when considering CBD use,” he advised.

While research continues to catch up with a growing number of individuals affected by heart disease, older recommendations still hold true: Eat well, sleep often and don’t sweat the small stuff.

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