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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Tulane: Antibiotic Use Linked to Greater Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

Women who take antibiotics over a long period of time are at increased risk of heart attack or stroke, according to new Tulane University research.

The study, published in the European Heart Journal, is one of the largest research efforts to investigate the link between antibiotic use and risk of heart disease and stroke.

Researchers found that women aged 60 or older who took antibiotics for two months or more had the greatest risk of cardiovascular disease, but long duration of antibiotic use was also associated with an increased risk if taken during middle age (aged 40-59). The researchers found no increased risk from antibiotic use by younger adults aged between 20-39.

A possible reason for the higher risk of cardiovascular disease could be because antibiotics alter the balance of the micro-environment in the gut, destroying “good” probiotic bacteria and increasing the prevalence of viruses, bacteria or other micro-organisms that can cause disease, said lead study author Dr. Lu Qi, director of the Tulane University Obesity Research Center.

“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,” Dr. Qi said.

After adjustments to take account of factors that could affect their results, the researchers found that women who used antibiotics for periods of two months or longer in late adulthood were 32 percent 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 percent increased risk compared to women who did not.