How Does Cannabis Help With Cardiovascular Disease?
Cardiovascular disease is one of the most common ailments in America; heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, causing nearly 1 in 4 deaths annually. Nearly fifty percent of Americans have one or more risk factors for heart disease, which include diabetes, a history of tobacco use, obesity, and a largely sedentary lifestyle. Many different pharmaceutical interventions are prescribed for cardiovascular disease, from ACE inhibitors to anticoagulants to antiplatelet agents to cholesterol-reducers like statins and cholesterol absorption inhibitors.
If you’ve been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, you may have a veritable armada of medications in your arsenal. Many of these medications can interact with both other medicines and the food you eat, making accommodating them in your life difficult. They can also produce nasty side effects and make you feel, well, crummy!
While we don’t advise discontinuing these medications outright (a terrible idea for your heart) without consulting your doctor and keeping a careful eye on your lab results (it’s important to continue to monitor your condition, and blood testing provides an excellent picture of your cardiovascular health), there is evidence to suggest that CBD can help alleviate the hypertension and inflammation underlying cardiovascular disease, reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
So, how does CBD help with cardiovascular disease? First, we’ll need to discuss the roots of cardiovascular disease—what it is, what causes it, and how to prevent it, or mitigate it if you’ve already been diagnosed. Then, we’ll explore the science of how CBD acts on your system to reduce hypertension and relax your blood vessels.
We’ll close with a recommended CBD regimen to help alleviate your symptoms and improve your health markers; work with your doctor to assess the effectiveness of your CBD regimen by watching your progress on your blood tests. You may find that CBD is enough to manage your condition effectively!
When reduced to its most basic elements, cardiovascular disease is like so many other illnesses in that it’s a disease of inflammation. Your blood vessels can become inflamed just like other tissues of your body, restricting blood flow and potentially blocking vital pathways, causing a heart attack or stroke. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a symptom of this inflammation: the blood vessels constrict as they become inflamed, forcing blood through the smaller openings at higher and higher pressures, sort of like putting your thumb over the mouth of a garden hose. This not only stresses the walls of your blood vessels, it also strains the heart, which has to work harder to pump your blood through your constricted and inflamed system.
This is one of the reasons aspirin is commonly prescribed as a preventive measure to people approaching middle age, the time of life when we expect to see cardiovascular disease arise. Aspirin works in two main ways to help stave off heart disease: it is a blood-thinner, meaning it makes your blood less likely to clot within your blood vessels and produce a heart attack. It is also an anti-inflammatory, and helps reduce the inflammation within your blood vessels that is contributing to your high blood pressure.
CBD can also accomplish this relaxation of blood vessels, as it’s also a potent anti-inflammatory that has been shown to relax blood vessels themselves (more on the biomechanics of that action in a moment!). CBD also reduces the cardiovascular response to different types of stress, which means it can help regulate your heart rate and decrease your risk of a sudden cardiac event.
Before we begin talking about the science of how CBD helps improve cardiovascular health, we need to make a note: CBD is no different from other medications in that it won’t magically undo or negate poor lifestyle choices. Cardiovascular disease affects your whole body, so you’ll need to consider your whole body when treating it in order to be effective.
If you’re going to add CBD to your regimen, that’s wonderful! That said, if you’re looking to get the maximum effect from your dose, you’ll need to pair your CBD routine with healthier lifestyle choices. This doesn’t just mean quitting tobacco, reducing alcohol intake, and avoiding fried foods—like anything else in life, the more you put into your lifestyle changes, the more you’ll get out of them.
It’s a good idea to increase your physical activity—try making small changes like going for a morning walk or taking the stairs to your office instead of the elevator—as well as making responsible dietary choices. There is mounting evidence to support the theory that the standard American diet—high in sugar and carbohydrates, low in fat—is hard on your system and promotes systemic inflammation, so talk to your doctor about how to make changes to your diet that will support your heart health.
Diet is tricky because so much of the existing research is influenced by the sugar and wheat industries (who have a vested interest in downplaying the harm their products cause), so it’s important to do your research while paying close attention to who funded the studies you’re reading. We advise working with your doctor in conjunction with doing your own research, and don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion!
What Studies Exist to Support the Use of CBD for Cardiovascular Disease?
While there are a fairly small (from a scientific perspective) number of studies available on the specifics of how CBD acts on the cardiovascular system, there’s a lot to unpack within them. We’ll be focusing on a study conducted in 2013, which found several phytocannabinoids (including CBD) to be effective in inducing vasorelaxation, or relaxing the tissues of blood vessels to increase their diameter, thereby improving blood circulation. CBD was also found to act as an agonist (a compound that boosts the effects of a different compound in the body) for a compound called PPARγ, which helps clear blockages in the arteries and reduces blood pressure.
This means that CBD acts on the cardiovascular system in (at least) two ways: it relaxes the blood vessels themselves, and it helps boost the activity of compounds that reduce blood pressure and gradually clear blockages. There are also other studies, performed on both humans and rats, that show CBD to produce vasorelaxation through a receptor located in the endothelium (the inner layer of cells lining your blood vessels). The full discussion gets a little complicated here, but the main point is that researchers found evidence that CBD acts on a receptor in the endothelium to help relax and expand blood vessels. While that receptor has yet to be specifically discovered, scientists have shown us where we should be looking, so researchers are getting warmer!
The anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects of CBD can also benefit cardiovascular health by decreasing cardiac response to stress, reducing the likelihood of a sudden cardiac event, like a heart attack. CBD can help regulate an irregular heartbeat, further reducing your risk of heart attack—especially if you’ve been diagnosed with an arrhythmia. These studies suggest that CBD has a regulatory effect on heart rate, and it does not appear to raise heart rate (unlike THC).
Which CBD products help with Cardiovascular Disease?
As you design a cannabidiol-infused wellness regimen to help combat symptoms of cardiovascular disease, you should note that CBD should be used regularly for maximum relief. In other words, using CBD as a preventative is the first step to total symptom relief. After establishing a regular dosing routine, then you can use CBD to manage acute flare-ups as well.
There are multiple CBD products that you can choose from, but for managing cardiovascular disease, we recommend ingesting full spectrum CBD oil daily in the form of tinctures or gel capsules.
These two products feature the same main ingredient—full spectrum CBD oil. Choosing between the two means determining which dosing style works best for you. Tinctures are easily dropped under the tongue, and gel capsules are swallowed, just like any other pill. Just be sure the product you choose also utilizes high-quality MCT oil, which is crucial to the body’s ability to effectively break down and absorb CBD.
After establishing a preventative routine, you may find that you still need an easy way to use CBD for managing acute flare-ups. There are many products that may help you achieve relief from these sudden symptoms, and choosing is based on your own preference.
Whether it’s caused by stress, a big life event, or something else – we recommend vaporizing CBD isolate to combat these acute flare-ups. CBD isolate is a version of CBD that is 99% pure, and when vaporized it can deliver fast-acting relief to the entire body.
Additionally, you can simply increase your regular dose of CBD gel capsules or tinctures to manage these acute flares. Just keep in mind that they will take significantly longer to take effect than the 10-minute onset achieved with vaporized CBD.
What is the correct CBD dosage to help treat Cardiovascular Disease?
Choosing the best dose for you requires careful consideration of your unique biological factors, like weight and tolerance to cannabinoid-based supplements. Additionally, you may need to increase your dose for more severe cases of ADHD or ADD or to manage severe flares.
We suggest those suffering from cardiovascular disease start with 15mg per day of CBD. If this dosage doesn’t bring complete relief, we suggest increasing by 5-10mg until the desired effects are achieved. CBD tinctures make it easy to measure doses in small increments, so they may be a great option for those who are testing out different doses.
CBD gel capsules, however, offer pre-measured doses that make it convenient to take CBD daily. There’s no harm starting with the lowest dose (like a ten-milligram capsule) and increasing by that increment since you can’t overdose on CBD and it poses no risk of serious side effects.
From here, you can increase your dose slowly until you experience complete relief. Don’t forget that with ingestible CBD products you’ll experience a delayed onset time – it can take up to 90 minutes for the effects to peak. That means you need to allow plenty of time between doses to the effects before you make any adjustments to the amount of CBD you are taking.
CBD vaporizers require a slightly different approach, as it can be difficult to measure the exact potency of CBD in every puff. Instead, try measuring the amount needed to experience relief from symptoms by the “number of puffs” needed. This is simple because vaporized CBD kicks in quickly, usually in ten minutes or less. This offers a great opportunity to slowly monitor the effects and stack on doses until you learn how much CBD you need.
A Note About CBD and Drug Interactions
Before starting to use CBD for any specific purpose, you should understand that CBD is most effective when used regularly. While it can absolutely be used to manage acute flare-ups, its primary purpose is as a preventive, so you’ll need to be consistent with it! Consider it like any other medication or dietary supplement: you want to establish a baseline concentration in your body for maximum effect.
To help support your cardiovascular health, we recommend ingesting full-spectrum CBD oil each day, in the form of tinctures or softgel capsules. Both products contain organic, non-GMO, hemp-derived CBD dissolved in MCT oil for maximum biovailability (the ability of a compound to be absorbed by your body); the only real difference is that the softgels are contained within a gelatin capsule and the tinctures are in liquid form. We like the softgels for convenience, but the tincture makes a great addition to coffee or smoothies if you don’t like the taste of it by itself.
When it comes to figuring out what dose works for you, be prepared to do some experimentation. We recommend starting with 5-10 mg of CBD per day to start, building up from there by 5-10 mg at a time if you don’t experience relief at a low dose. Tinctures can be dropped a few milligrams at a time and the softgels are available in 15 mg and 25 mg dosage strengths, so you can easily adjust your dose.
There is no harm in taking more than you need: you cannot overdose on CBD, it carries no serious side effects, and it does not cause your body to develop a tolerance to it. Ingested CBD will last up to 8 hours—many consumers find that their dose gets them through the whole day! That said, be advised that it also takes longer to kick in: between 45 and 90 minutes to feel full effects, depending on your body and the dose.
Managing Acute Flare-Ups
In addition to the daily maintenance program discussed above, you may want to supplement your regimen with vaporized CBD. Unlike ingested CBD, vaping the compound takes effect almost instantly and can help soothe acute episodes of high blood pressure or a racing heart. We recommend either using CBD vape oil or dabbing pure CBD isolate in these instances, soothing your cardiovascular system quickly and effectively. You can also use tinctures or softgels for these situations, but bear in mind that you’ll have to wait longer for relief than you would if you inhaled CBD.
The potent anti-inflammatory and anxiolytic effects of CBD can provide major benefits to your cardiovascular system, reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke. CBD can perform some of the functions of commonly-prescribed medications to soothe inflammation and bring down blood pressure. If you’re interested in more research about the applications of CBD for cardiovascular disease, check out our free case studies to see how CBD can help you take control of your health. If you’d like more information about replacing your current pharmaceutical regimen with CBD, consider our CBD ebook, which covers everything you need to know to make the switch successfully.