Cannabis Found to Lower Blood Pressure in Older Adults
A new study points toward another way that medical marijuana may help treat a chronic condition that impacts one in every three U.S. citizens.
A new study has found that using cannabis lowered the systolic and diastolic blood pressure for people in their 60s with hypertension. That's an important finding, as the number of people with hypertension in the United States alone is more than 100 million.
The study found that using cannabis regularly for three months led to a five-point drop in systolic pressure (the higher number in a blood pressure reading) and a 4.5-point drop in diastolic pressure (the lower number). The decline seemed the biggest about three hours after the use of cannabis.
The researchers, who published their findings in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, found that the improvement occurred whether patients smoked cannabis or used cannabis oil. They also theorize that the reason for the blood pressure drop relates to weed's effectiveness in helping people manage pain.
More older people than ever are using cannabis
Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel launched the study in reaction to the increasing number of older people who are using cannabis and CBD. Most of them use cannabis to treat pain, reduce anxiety and get better sleep.
Researchers at the university point out that little study has been done on how cannabis impacts older people. Dr. Ran Abuhasira, who led the research team, said the study "is part of our ongoing effort to provide clinical research on the actual physiological effects of cannabis over time."
The small study involved 26 patients. Women made up 54 percent of the group. Each patient had been diagnosed with hypertension, which means a blood pressure reading that is regularly above 120/80. Each also had a new prescription for cannabis, which is legal for medical use in Israel.
Over the next three months, researchers performed several assessments. They included 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, ECG, blood tests, and anthropometric measurements before the initiation of cannabis therapy and three months afterward.
In addition to the lower blood pressure readings, researchers also found the percentage of patients who were "normal dippers' - a term that refers to blood pressure dipping each day, usually at night - increased from 27.3 percent before the study started to 45.5 percent three months later.
Related: Can CBD Combat Sleep Disorders?
Reasons why cannabis may lower blood pressure
The Ben Gurion University research team theorized that relief from pain, which is why most of the patients had a cannabis prescription, may have contributed to the reduction in blood pressure.
The findings are important because hypertension is one of the most significant contributors to heart disease and strokes. In the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that hypertension is involved in as many as 500,000 deaths per year.
The study is one of many ongoing worldwide, although the U.S. trails in this area because of drug laws. The American Heart Association reports that American scientists have been hindered in researching marijuana because of its continued illegal status at the federal level.
Dr. Robert Kloner, chief science officer at Huntington Medical Research Institutes and professor of medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, told the association that some studies suggest CBD could reduce heart rate and blood pressure, but THC may raise them.
Kloner said, "What we want to do is try to tease out the potential positive things that there could be in CBD and understand a bit more what THC is doing, and maybe come up with ways of counteracting that."