Nearly one-third of American adults have high blood pressure, or hypertension. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 70% of these people take medication to treat their hypertension. Medical marijuana may be a new source of medication for people suffering from Hypertension.
Hypertension means that the pressure exerted by the blood in the arteries, leading away from the heart, is higher than normal. A normal blood pressure measurement is 120/80 mm Hg or lower. The first number is the systolic pressure and refers to the pressure when the heart contracts. The second number is the diastolic pressure and is a measure of the pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes.
High blood pressure is defined as a systolic pressure that is 140 mm Hg or higher and diastolic pressure is 90 mm Hg or higher. Blood pressure that lies between 120-139 mm Hg systolic and 80-89 mm Hg diastolic is considered prehypertension.
The most common type of hypertension is essential hypertension, and it is found in about 95 percent of all patients with hypertension. Essential hypertension means there is no identifiable physiological cause. Risk factors for essential hypertension include:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Age 65 and older
Hypertension is often called the silent killer, as it has no prominent symptoms, but increases risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.
Endocannabinoids and Hypertension
The cannabinoid system plays a role in the cardiovascular system, including lowering blood pressure. In a review article of numerous studies on the relationship between the endocannabinoid system and the cardiovascular system, the authors concluded endocannabinoids help control blood pressure in conditions that cause an extreme drop in blood pressure, such as internal bleeding, and in cases of hypertension.
Many medications are available to treat hypertension. Most are successful at controlling blood pressure, and all have some side effects. Medications include:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers
- Beta blockers
- Calcium channel blockers
- Renin inhibitors
Another option is cannabis, research shows that cannabis use for hypertension can slightly decrease blood pressure. When standing from a sitting position, a person taking cannabis may experience a drop in blood pressure that can result in light-headedness. People should be careful if combining cannabis with other prescription medications taken for hypertension.
Research also shows that stopping cannabis abruptly after long use can cause a rebound increase in blood pressure. The researchers recommend tapering off, rather than suddenly withdrawing, from cannabis to prevent this effect.