Birth Control Pill & Heart Attack

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Women’s health, the contraceptive birth control pill, heart attack and stroke. Safe or not?

One of the most widely used pharmaceutical preparations, the birth control pill, has come under pressure regarding the risks of heart attack and stroke.

For years there has been much debate concerning contraceptive pills and health issues. Even though millions of women use the pill every day across the globe the negative side effects often seem over whelming.

Even a Low-Dose Birth Control Pill Raises Heart Risk

Taking birth control pills may double a woman's risk of heart attack or stroke, but that risk vanishes after a woman stops taking low-dose oral contraceptives, researchers add.

And while use of the Pill can raise cardiovascular risk, the researchers note that a pre-menopausal woman's absolute risk of a cardiac event is usually very low to begin with.

Still, "the study suggests that women in general are at an increased risk of having a cardiovascular event while taking even these third-generation, low-dose, birth control pills," study author Dr. John Nestler, a professor and chairman of the division of endocrinology and metabolism at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond, said in a prepared statement.

The findings are based on a review of studies published between January 1980 and October 2002.

Do contraceptive birth control pills increase the risk of heart attack and stroke in women?

"Prolonged exposure to low-dose oral contraceptives in a population at higher risk may significantly increase the incidence of cardiovascular outcome, and prompt considerations of alternative therapeutic or contraceptive interventions," Nestler wrote.

According to the Virginia researcher, populations at "higher risk" for heart attack or stroke include women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or a constellation of risk factors collectively known as the "metabolic syndrome" -- conditions such as high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, obesity and low HDL "good" cholesterol.

Even though the study concluded that taking the Pill may double the risk of heart attack, the absolute risk for an individual young woman taking the Pill is very low, Nestler said.

"Women using the Pill are not going to automatically have a heart attack. However, our findings do raise the issue of whether oral contraceptives are optimal therapy for certain groups of women who are at baseline risk or who are taking the Pill for a longer time, such as women with PCOS," he said.

The study appears in the July issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The above article first appeared in the HealthDay News on Wednesday, July 13, 2005

While the issue of the birth control pill and heart attack and stoke in women will undoubtedly be a controversial debate for many years, from the above it seems that healthy women needn’t be too concerned.

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