The evidence that we can gather today from a wide range of conclusive studies shows how cannabinoids are useful in treating different health conditions. The list of treatable diseases also includes a coronary artery disease with its underlying pathology, called Atherosclerosis, which is caused due to inflammation. Cannabinoids act as a crucial part in dealing with this problem and work as an anti-inflammatory agent. This enables the regulation of our immune system.
Atherosclerosis: A Complete Overview of The Disease
Atherosclerosis is the narrowing and hardening of the arteries. It impairs the flow of blood to the brain and the heart which is caused due to the build-up of atherosclerotic plaque (build-up of lipids within the arterial wall). This continues to accumulate in the arteries. Cholesterol, fat, and several other substances present in the blood from the inner lining of the arteries. However, as an atherosclerotic plaque continues to form, the immune system responds by inducing inflammation, which will result in way more damage. A total or partial blockage can occur which will stop the flow of blood through different arteries of the pelvis, brain, legs, arms, kidneys, or heart due to the obstructive plaques.
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Early stages of this disease don’t bring with it any kind of visible symptoms. The build-up continues to form inside the artery walls and gradually these symptoms can be experienced.
Radiating pain, Chest pain, Overwhelming fatigue, Shortness of breath, Nausea, Sweating, Heart palpitations, Breathing difficulties, Loss of consciousness; any of these symptoms may be experienced according to the site of occurrence of the atherosclerotic plaque.
Scientific studies conducted over the years have suggested that the psychoactive compounds present in cannabis i.e. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can have a beneficial effect on the immune system cells. THC can decrease proinflammatory substances secretion and the migration of these substances to the vessel wall.
How Cannabis Influences Atherosclerosis?
In order to understand the role that cannabis plays in the prevention of coronary heart disease, we need to understand how the cannabinoid receptors function in the whole endocannabinoid system (ECS). Comprised of cannabinoids the endocannabinoid system plays a primary role in the maintenance of proper cell function occurring in the different systems of your body.
There are two primary cell receptors that make the ECS :
- Cannabinoid Receptor 1 (CB1)
- Cannabinoid Receptor 2 (CB2)
CB1 receptors are present in the brain cells. They are responsible for chemical psychotropic effects whereas the CB2 receptors are abundant and found in the immune cells. All the major organs – heart, brain, liver, and VSMCs (Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells) have CB1 receptors. Endocannabinoids are the naturally produced, small molecules present within the cell membranes. You will be amazed to know that endocannabinoids are synthesized every time they are needed. They aren’t stored for later use. Upon the consumption of cannabis, THC (the psychoactive compound) reacts with both receptors (CB1 and CB2). This is done by producing a change in the brain messages as well as regulating cardiac functions and blood circulations.
The pharmacologic effects of cannabinoids, based on their interaction with cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), which are widely distributed in the cardiovascular system, have been well described. Activation of these receptors modulates the function of various cellular components of the vessel wall and may contribute to the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis.
The role of CB2 receptor activation on atherosclerosis occurrence has been studied and it was shown that CB2 stimulation leads to attenuation of the inflammatory response in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. Various investigations on models of human diseases support the idea that CBD lessens the inflammation beyond the known antioxidant properties of CBD. The therapeutic utility of CBD is a relatively new area of investigation that will result in new discoveries on the interaction between inflammation and oxidative stress and the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a relationship that highlights the tissue and organ damage in many human disorders, including atherosclerosis.