The link between antibiotics and heart attack risk in women

Research recently published in the European Heart Journal details a link between increased stroke and heart attack risk in women and the long-term use of antibiotics. Long-term use, in this case, means a duration of at least two months, according to the study, which involved almost 36,500 women. The increased risk was found across multiple age groups.

The study was led by Tulane University Obesity Research Centre Director Lu Qi, professor of nutrition at Harvard T.C. Chan School of Public Health. The researchers found increased risks associated with long-term antibiotic use in women ages 40 to 59 and 60 or older. No risk was found in women ages 39 and younger.

The data used in the study was gathered from 2004 to 2012 as part of the Nurses' Health Study. Surveyed women were separated into four groups, including those who had never taken antibiotics, those who had taken them for two weeks or less, those who had taken them for more than two weeks but less than two months, and those who had taken them for a minimum of two months.

The study covered a follow-up period of almost eight years. Of the participants, 1,056 had developed cardiovascular disease during that time. After accounting for other possible factors, the researchers found that women in the two months or longer antibiotic use group had a 32-percent greater chance of developing CVD compared to the women who didn't take the medication.

That risk was found in women who fell into the older age group; women in the middle age group had a slightly lower risk at 28-percent. The reasons for taking the antibiotics varied, including common issues like UTIs, dental infections, and similar conditions. The reason for the increased risk is unclear, but the researchers say it may be the result of changes in beneficial gut bacteria that result from long-term antibiotic use.