The unseen risk of hypertension
There are a few things that contribute to hypertension—a lack of physical exercise, stress, eating badly, and obesity—the great news is that these have all been positively influenced by CBD, at least in a small range of pre-clinical and animal studies. This could present a vital lifeline for the estimated 1.13 billion people living with the condition. If we start to break down that figure, the indiscriminate nature of hypertension becomes apparent. In 2015, 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women had hypertension that is truly astronomical. To make matters worse, there are, of course, a significant number of risk factors.
The likelihood of hypertension is greater the older you are, if you have a family history of high blood pressure, if you’re overweight, if you smoke, experience prolonged periods of stress, or have other chronic conditions (kidney disease, diabetes, sleep apnea). In short, there are a lot of factors that can increase your risk of hypertension.
The good news is, most of the risk factors are manageable, many with small lifestyle changes. But, to understand how the condition has become so prevalent, and how CBD could influence hypertension, let’s first take a closer look at the mechanism of the disease.
Understanding and treating hypertension
For our heart to successfully pump blood around our entire body, there needs to be a certain degree of force. Our body’s arteries are designed to cope with fluctuating pressure; however, it’s when blood pressure rises that problems occur.
Blood pressure is measured in two different formats—systolic and diastolic pressure. The former is the pressure experienced when the heart pushes blood out, while the latter is the pressure between beats when the heart rests. When we are given a blood pressure reading, it is always systolic first, then diastolic.
For example, an ideal blood pressure reading is in the range of 90/60–120/80mmHg (blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury). Someone with hypertension would have a blood pressure of 140/90mmHg or higher.
As you can imagine, sustained pressure can cause severe damage to the heart. Over time, heightened blood pressure forces arteries to harden, reducing the overall flow of blood. In worst-case scenarios, high blood pressure can lead to angina, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, or burst arteries.
Although prevention is an excellent strategy for reducing cases of hypertension, there will be circumstances where management is the only option. In these cases, reducing mental stress, regular blood pressure checks, and treatment of blood pressure are commonly recommended strategies. It is the latter—treatment of blood pressure—where we find CBD may play a key role.
What effect could CBD have on hypertension?
While it is possible to achieve reductions in systolic and diastolic pressure through the management of risk factors, there is a growing interest in the effects of CBD, not just on hypertension, but overall cardiovascular health.
In 2017, the Journal of Clinical Investigation published a study into the effects of CBD on blood pressure. Nine healthy male volunteers were administered either a 600mg dose of CBD or placebo. During the placebo-controlled, double-blind study, several “cardiovascular parameters” were monitored.
Those parameters included the systolic blood pressure we mentioned earlier, as well as heart rate. Researchers concluded that “acute administration of CBD reduces resting BP and the BP increase to stress in humans”. It is essential to highlight that the sample size used was incredibly small, especially compared to the ~1.13 billion people living with hypertension. As such, while encouraging, significantly more research is needed—a recommendation the study itself confirms.
Treating hypertension in the future
It may be too early to tell if there is potential for CBD to be used in the treatment of hypertension, but thankfully, that hasn’t stopped researchers. In addition to the study above, the cannabinoid has attracted attention from the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Current results appear to suggest that CBD can have a positive influence on hypertension. Still, as we pointed out earlier, many of the studies are limited in sample size, conducted in vitro, or use animal models.
Regarding the prevention and management of hypertension, you should always consult with your doctor before pursuing a course of action.