Women who take antibiotics over an extended period of time are apparently at an elevated risk for heart attack or stroke. The study looked at data collected from 36,500 women and has been published in the European Heart Journal.
The study indicates that women over the age of 60 who have taken antibiotics for at least two months had a much higher risk or cardiovascular disease than those who have not taken them for as long. In addition, the link also appears to be similar among middle-aged women (age 40 – 59). Perhaps most notably, the researchers did not find this increased risk associated with extended antibiotic use among younger adults.
Lead study researcher Lu Qi explains, “Antibiotic use is the most critical factor in altering the balance of microorganisms in the gut. Previous studies have shown a link between alterations in the microbiotic environment of the gut and inflammation and narrowing of the blood vessels, stroke, and heart disease.”
The study took data collected between 2004 and 2012. It simply asked women (aged 60 or older) about their antibiotic use since their young adult ages through the present day. Then the researchers separated this population into four categories: those who had never taken antibiotics, those who had taken antibiotics for only a period of up to 15 days, those who had taken antibiotics between 15 and 60 days, and those who had taken antibiotics for at least two months.
Qi is the Director of the Tulane University Obesity Research Centre as well as an adjunct professor at the Harvard University T.C. Chan School of Public Health.
He goes on to say, “This is an observational study and so it cannot show that antibiotics cause heart disease and stroke, only that there is a link between them. It’s possible that women who reported more antibiotic use might be sicker in other ways that we were unable to measure or there may be other factors that could affect the results that we have not been able to take account of.”
The average follow up period for the study was about eight years, with check-ins every two. After adjusting for factors that could affect results—including age, diet, lifestyle, sex, reasons for antibiotic use, weight, and other diseases/medications—the research team found that women who used antibiotics for the longest period and/or later into adulthood were 32 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease.