CBD For Your Heart
The leading cause of death in Europe and the US
The relationship between CBD and heart disease is a complex one. Not only are there numerous contributing factors to cardiovascular disease (CVD), but in some cases (which we will explore shortly), scientists still aren’t entirely sure of CBD’s mechanism of action.
There are, however, a few things we can be sure of. Whether you look at statistics in Europe or the US, cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death. In 2017, 45% of all deaths in Europe were the result of cardiovascular disease. And while that may be a shocking way to introduce this topic, it is merely to show the enormous impact that CVD has.
Fortunately, there are numerous medications on hand to help treat CVD, but many of these carry extensive side effects. Given the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, scientists from across the globe are continually searching for treatments that are both effective and have minimal side effects. One compound regularly touted for this job is CBD, and while much of the research into this versatile cannabinoid is preclinical, there are some encouraging signs.
Before we find out what several studies suggest about CBD’s effectiveness, it helps to understand exactly what cardiovascular disease is.
What is cardiovascular disease, and what causes it?
Cardiovascular disease is the classification given to a range of conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels—angina, myocardial infarction, stroke, and arrhythmia, to name a few. At the centre of CVD is your heart. Responsible for transporting essential elements such as oxygen, hormones, and nutrients, the human body would not last long if the heart were to stop working.
Restrict the muscles of the heart or those belonging to the vast network of arteries, and it's easy to see how problems can arise. You need only imagine what would happen if you put a kink in your garden hose; water would continue to flow, building up until the blockage either clears or the hose bursts—the same principle applies to the heart.
Unhealthy lifestyle choices further compound the situation. Whether it’s sugary or greasy foods, a sedentary lifestyle, chronic stress, smoking, or drinking, an excess of just one of these factors contributes significantly to the onset of CVD.
The developing relationship between CBD and cardiovascular disease
As we suggested, researchers are keen to understand how CBD could influence cardiovascular disease.
• CBD and blood pressure
A 2007 study published by The American Society for Clinical Investigation displayed positive results when a single dose of CBD was used to reduce blood pressure.
Nine volunteers (all male) were given either 600mg of CBD or placebo before blood pressure (BP) readings were taken. Patients given CBD not only displayed reduced BP compared to the placebo group, but the impact was particularly noticeable before and after stress. The paper concluded that “acute administration of CBD reduces resting BP and the BP increase to stress in humans”.
Although a small sample compared to the millions affected by cardiovascular disease, the results are significant. High or abnormal blood pressure is considered a leading cause of ischaemic heart disease.
• CBD and stress
The study above touched on another key contributor to cardiovascular disease—stress. The Einstein Institute for Heart and Vascular Health pointed out in 2009 that there is evidence to support the notion that psychosocial stressors contribute significantly to CVD. It is believed to be because stress causes both an increase in blood pressure and production of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol.
Although many studies are still in the animal testing phase, stress reduction is believed to be an essential attribute of CBD through its facilitation of “endocannabinoid-mediated signalling”.
• CBD and arrhythmia
Heart arrhythmia is when a person’s heartbeat is irregular—either too fast or too slow. Abnormal changes in heart rate can lead to palpitations, lightheadedness, and chest pain. In worst cases scenarios, arrhythmia can even lead to stroke or heart failure. This time, an in vivo (inside a living organism) study found CBD to exert cardioprotective qualities.
A rodent model of ischemia-induced arrhythmias received a dose of CBD ten minutes before artery occlusion and ten minutes before reperfusion. Findings showed that “CBD reduced both the total number of ischemia-induced arrhythmias and infarct size when administered prior to ischaemia”, and, “infarct size was also reduced when CBD was given prior to reperfusion”.
Don’t worry if that all sounds difficult to follow. Essentially, what researchers did was create an irregular heartbeat by restricting arteries (ischaemia), before clearing the blockage and restoring a natural heartbeat (reperfusion). It is important to highlight that the authors of the study are still not entirely sure of the mechanism of action for CBD’s antiarrhythmic effect.
Prevention is still the best treatment for cardiovascular disease
It is an age-old adage, but prevention is a crucial strategy to combating cardiovascular disease. The impact of lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise should not be overlooked. As such, small changes to daily habits can have a hugely beneficial effect.
Cardiovascular disease is a severe condition, and any treatment decision should be made under the guidance of medical professionals. Moreover, the body of research on CBD for CVD is inconclusive. However, that’s not to say that, armed with the evidence we’ve highlighted, you cannot have an informed conversation with your doctor about incorporating CBD into your daily routine.