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New Research Flagging Potentially Dangerous Link Between Marijuana Use & Heart Issues

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As more states legalize marijuana, new research is flagging a potentially dangerous link between marijuana use and heart issues.

A new review from Brigham and Women's Hospital finds smoking pot carries many of the same cardiovascular risks as smoking tobacco.

"Many, many people, they feel it's completely safe and it's not like smoking cigarettes," said Dr. Tara Narula. "The reality is we're beginning to expose with research like this that it may in fact not be harmless."

CBS News medical contributor Dr. Narula is a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital.

"Marijuana can affect the heart rhythm, the heart muscle, the blood vessels," Dr. Narula said. "All of this can lead to things like arrhythmias or abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure, increased risk for heart attack or stroke."

The study also found marijuana use, in any form, can interfere with certain cardiovascular medications, including blood pressure drugs, cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins and blood thinners.

Patients with underlying cardiovascular disease may be at the highest risk, but doctors said they're seeing the effects even in patients who are young and healthy.

Researchers recommend cardiologists screen their patients, asking them how often they use marijuana, how much and in what form.

"People are often surprised when they're in my office, as a cardiologist, I ask about marijuana and then I tell them you know marijuana could have an impact on your heart," Dr. Narula said.

Because of federal laws, research on marijuana has been severely limited. The authors are calling for more studies, but until then they said there's enough evidence for concern.

As vaping marijuana becomes more popular, researchers recommend informing patients that vaping the drug can be particularly potent and may have more harmful effects.

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