By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS)–Medical marijuana is legal in 28 states including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

It is used to treat a number of conditions, including pain, seizures and nausea.

Previous research has focused mostly on pulmonary and psychiatric complications.

Now, new research from Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia also finds a link between marijuana and heart trouble.

A study released today is one of the first to concentrate on cardiac risks.

“Patients who use cannabis were at significantly higher risk of developing heart failure,” says Einstein cardiologist Dr. Aditi Kalla.

Kalla, a cardiac researcher, says the study reviewed health records from 1,000 hospitals covering patients between the ages of 18 to 55 years old.

Those who used marijuana had a 26 percent increased risk of having a stroke and a 10 percent higher risk of heart failure.

Pot appears to directly impact the heart.

“When cannabis affects human heart cells those cells are less able to squeeze and therefore the heart as a whole is not able to pump as well,” said Dr. Kalla. ”

The study was conducted from 2009 to 2010 before cannabis was legal in most states.

Researchers did not account for quantity or frequency of pot use or whether or not it was ingested or smoked.

So doctors say more research is needed but the risks should be considered.

“As cannabis becomes legalized across the country I think both the medical and general community will need to become more aware of potential cardiovascular complications that can arise from cannabis use,” says Dr. Kalla.

Previous studies have shown that heavy cannabis use can cause psychiatric and respiratory problems and can impair learning, memory and attention.

 

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