Washington: A recent study claims that women aged 60 or more, who take antibiotics for two or more months stay at higher risk of heart attack or stroke. The details were published in the Journal of European Heart.
Professor Lu Qi, the director says that a possible reason why antibiotic use is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease is that antibiotics alter the balance of the microenvironment in the gut, destroying “good” probiotic bacteria and increasing the prevalence of viruses, bacteria or other microorganisms that can cause disease.
“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,” he said.
The researchers studied 36,429 women. They studied factors that could affect results, such as age, race, sex, diet and lifestyle, reasons for antibiotic use, overweight or obesity, other diseases, and medication use, the researchers found that women who used antibiotics for periods of two months or longer in late adulthood were 32 per cent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than women who did not use antibiotics. Women who took antibiotics for longer than two months in middle age had a 28 per cent increased risk compared to women who did not.
These findings mean that among women who take antibiotics for two months or more in late adulthood, six women per 1,000 would develop cardiovascular disease, compared to three per 1,000 among women who had not taken antibiotics.
The first author of the study is Dr Yoriko Heianza says “By investigating the duration of antibiotic use in various stages of adulthood we have found an association between long-term use in middle age and later life and an increased risk of stroke and heart disease during the following eight years. As these women grew older they were more likely to need more antibiotics, and sometimes for longer periods of time, which suggests a cumulative effect may be the reason for the stronger link in older age between antibiotic use and cardiovascular disease.”
The most common reasons for antibiotic use were respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and dental problems. Limitations include the fact that the participants reported their use of antibiotics and so this could be misremembered. However, as they were all health professionals, they were able to provide more accurate information on medication use than the general population.
Prof Qi concluded “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.
“Our study suggests that antibiotics should be used only when they are absolutely needed. Considering the potentially cumulative adverse effects, the shorter time of antibiotic use the better.”