Women who use antibiotics for more than two months are 35% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke, the study finds
- Experts from Tulane University believe that long-term use of the drugs destroys healthy gut bacteria
- The study is the largest long-term study of the link between antibiotic use and heart disease ever conducted
- This creates an imbalance that increases inflammation and narrows blood vessels
- The risk is highest for women over 60 and significant for women aged 40 to 59
- For younger women under 40 there was no discernible effect
Women who use antibiotics for more than two months have an increased risk of heart attack or stroke, research suggests.
Experts believe that prolonged use of the drugs destroys healthy bacteria in the gut – creating an imbalance that increases inflammation, narrows blood vessels and ultimately damages the heart.
They think this creates a cumulative effect, so the more often a woman uses antibiotics during her lifetime, the greater the final risk.
The researchers, who followed 36,500 women in the US, found those over 60 who used antibiotics for more than two months 32 percent more likely to develop heart disease in the next eight years than those who didn't use the drugs.
The study is the largest long-term study of the link between antibiotic use and heart disease ever conducted
There was an increased risk of 28 percent for the 40 to 59 age group.
For younger women under 40 there was no discernible effect.
Researcher Dr. Yoriko Heianza, of the University of Tulane in New Orleans, said: “By examining the duration of antibiotic use at different stages of adulthood, we have found a link between long-term use in middle age and later age and an increased risk of stroke and heart disease during the next eight years.
& # 39; As these women grew older, they needed more antibiotics and sometimes longer, suggesting that a cumulative effect may be the reason for the stronger link between antibiotics use and cardiovascular disease in old age. & # 39;
The researchers, who published their findings in the European Heart Journal, stressed that although the overall relative risk increased, the absolute risk remained low for everyone.
For every 1,000 women who use antibiotics for at least two months, only six were likely to suffer damage to their heart or arteries, they said.
Antibiotics are designed to kill dangerous bacteria that cause diseases and infections.
But in the process, they also destroy useful bacteria, change the balance of the intestinal ecosystem and increase the risk of viruses, harmful insects and infectious fungal organisms.
Colleague researcher Prof. Lu Qi, an expert in nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, said: “Antibiotic use is the most critical factor in changing the balance of microorganisms in the gut.
& # 39; Previous studies have shown a link between changes in the microbiotic environment of the gut and inflammation and narrowing of blood vessels, stroke, and heart disease. & # 39;
The study is the largest long-term study of the link between antibiotic use and heart disease ever conducted.
The most common reasons for women taking antibiotics were lung infections, urinary tract infections, and dental problems.
Professor Qi added: & # 39; Our study suggests that antibiotics should only be used if they are absolutely necessary.
& # 39; Given the potentially cumulative side effects, the shorter the antibiotic use, the better. & # 39;
The NHS is desperately trying to reduce antibiotic use to prevent the imminent superug crisis.
This is because excessive use of antibiotics triggers the development of harmful bacteria to resist treatment.
The more antibiotics used, the stronger the superugs become – and since the 1980s there is no new class of antibiotics for sale.
More than 3,000 people a year die in Britain as a result of the superugs crisis and the NHS spends £ 180 million a year to tackle the problem.