Cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown to have formidable healing properties. The list of health conditions that this abundant cannabis compound can help heal or improve continues to grow.
But is it good for your heart? New studies on the effects of CBD on cardiovascular disease suggest that CBD could be a potent weapon against the number one killer in the United States.
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Cardiovascular Disease Is a Complex Problem
The heart is at the center of a complex system of veins and arteries that carry blood and nutrients throughout the body. Cardiovascular disease is a broad term that includes a number of issues having to do with all or part of this complex system. It can include:
- Atherosclerosis, which is commonly referred to as hardening of the arteries
- Hypertension, or high blood pressure
- Coronary artery diseases, such as angina
- Peripheral artery disease, which is connected to atherosclerosis
- Stroke, which occurs when a blood clot (which can be related to artery disease) blocks an artery in the brain, or when a blood vessel in the brain, such as an aneurysm, ruptures
- Myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscles
- Circulatory problems and diseases of the veins
What Causes Cardiovascular Disease?
One reason cardiovascular disease is so common, and often so hard to treat, is that it can have many different causes. Cardiovascular issues can arise from:
- Congenital problems with the way the heart or blood vessels are formed
- Infection or inflammation in the heart or blood vessels
- Lifestyle factors such as smoking, stress, lack of exercise and eating a diet high in processed foods, sugars and salt
- Chronic conditions like diabetes
- High levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol
The Many Treatments for Cardiovascular Disease
Because so many factors can contribute to developing some form of cardiovascular disease, standard medical treatment for these problems can also vary considerably. Some factors can be handled with lifestyle changes. Simply quitting smoking and exercising more can go a long way toward stopping or reversing some kinds of cardiovascular problems.
But when these things don’t work, doctors frequently turn to an array of powerful pharmaceuticals to handle different aspects of cardiovascular disease. This can include:
- Hypertension medications to lower blood pressure
- Anticoagulants to keep blood thin
- ACE inhibitors and statin drugs to lower cholesterol levels
Some patients end up taking more than one of these drugs, and many folks are already taking other medications for different health problems, too.
These drugs can have serious side effects, and for some people, they simply don’t work. So it’s of great interest that research suggests that CBD can be an effective treatment for some forms of heart and cardiovascular disease, without the risks and side effects of traditional pharmaceuticals. This is because CBD has a wide range of therapeutic properties that can address many of the different causes of cardiovascular disease.
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CBD Promotes Cardiovascular Health
CBD is one of the most abundant compounds in the Cannabis sativa plant. It occurs alongside the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in many strains. But the hemp variety of the plant, which contains no more than 0.3% of THC, also features CBD, and CBD doesn’t have the same mood-altering effects as THC.
Some studies have suggested that people who consume marijuana have a higher rate of heart disease than the population at large does and that high doses of THC can be detrimental to folks with cardiovascular disease. So more research is needed to clarify the effects of cannabis with THC on the heart.
But many other studies have focused on hemp-based CBD. And this research has shown that, taken on its own, CBD has a variety of healthful effects that explain why it can contribute to improved heart health.
- CBD is an anti-inflammatory. One factor that plays a major role in the development of cardiovascular disease is inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses.
But when there’s constant, low-level inflammation of the tissues due to things like smoking or a diet of harmful foods, it can contribute to the stiffening of arteries and the buildup of plaque in arteries and veins. CBD can damp down inflammation and give damaged tissues support to heal.
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CBD is antibacterial. Bacteria can cause low-level inflammation and infection responses in the body, too. These responses can affect the heart and vascular system and cause plaque to develop in arteries. In various lab tests, CBD has been shown to be effective against some kinds of bacteria.
CBD is an antioxidant. Oxidative stress occurs when unstable molecules called free radicals overwhelm the body’s defenses. This contributes generally to inflammation throughout the body, and specifically to cardiovascular conditions such as atherosclerosis, stroke and heart disease. CBD can reduce the effects of oxidative stress, which could reduce the effects of inflammation on the body—or help prevent it altogether.
CBD can help lower blood pressure. CBD can reduce tension in the walls of blood vessels, a process called vasorelaxation. Stress and other factors such as drinking alcohol and having too much sodium in the diet can cause the walls of blood vessels to become narrow and stiff. This makes it harder for blood to pump normally and contributes to high blood pressure.
In a 2004 study performed on rats, endocannabinoids seemed to regulate cardiovascular function, normalizing blood pressure. Overall, CBD has been shown to promote relaxation and calm anxiety. For the same reasons, it can help relax the walls of arteries and veins so that they become more flexible and allow blood to flow more easily. This can lower blood pressure and reduce risk factors for heart attack, stroke and circulatory problems.
How to Take CBD for Your Heart
You can protect your heart by incorporating CBD in many forms:
With an array of anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and calming properties, CBD may be an important part of keeping your heart healthy.
Photo credit: El Payo
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