Cannabinoids and their synthetic and endogenous analogs affect a broad range of physiological functions, including cardiovascular variables, the most important component of their effect being profound hypotension. The mechanisms of the cardiovascular effects of cannabinoids in vivo are complex and may involve modulation of autonomic outflow in both the central and peripheral nervous systems as well as direct effects on the myocardium and vasculature. Although several lines of evidence indicate that the cardiovascular depressive effects of cannabinoids are mediated by peripherally localized CB1 receptors, recent studies provide strong support for the existence of as-yet-undefined endothelial and cardiac receptor(s) that mediate certain endocannabinoid-induced cardiovascular effects. The endogenous cannabinoid system has been recently implicated in the mechanism of hypotension associated with hemorrhagic, endotoxic, and cardiogenic shock, and advanced liver cirrhosis. Furthermore, cannabinoids have been considered as novel antihypertensive agents. A protective role of endocannabinoids in myocardial ischemia has also been documented. In this chapter, we summarize current information on the cardiovascular effects of cannabinoids and highlight the importance of these effects in a variety of pathophysiological conditions.
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