Antibiotic Use Linked To Greater Risk Of Heart Attack & Stroke In Women

Written by Caroline Muggia

Image by Marc Tran / Stocksy

Antibiotics are critical at times—they can be a lifesaving treatment for bacterial infections—but a new study published in the European Heart Journal found that women who took antibiotics for an extended period were at a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

The researchers examined the antibiotic use of approximately 36,000 women ages 20 and older. Women reported whether they had ever taken antibiotics, and if so, whether it was for less than 15 days, for 15 days to two months, or for more than two months.

The study analyzed the data over eight years and discovered that women 60 years and older who took antibiotics for two months or longer (often needed to treat more persistent bacterial infections, like Lyme disease) were 32 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those who didn't take antibiotics; and women between the ages of 40 and 59 who took antibiotics for this same amount of time had a 28 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

While more research is needed to confirm these findings, researchers speculate that the relationship between antibiotic use and cardiovascular disease may have something to do with the way antibiotics alter the makeup of the microbiome—decreasing good bacteria and making you vulnerable to bacteria or viruses 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," said Lu Qi, lead study researcher and director of the Tulane University Obesity Research Centre, in a statement.

In light of this potential link, the study authors suggest taking antibiotics only when absolutely necessary. How do you go about this? Before taking antibiotics, have a conversation with your doctor about the effectiveness of the prescribed antibiotic for your illness and whether it's necessary to fight off the infection.

If you do need to take antibiotics, consider ways to simultaneously support your gut health and help your body fight off infection. In addition to eating a nutrient-rich diet, you can take a probiotic to help replenish some of the good gut bacteria that your antibiotics destroy—just make sure to separate them by a few hours or your probiotic won't be as effective. Antibiotics can also negatively affect our mitochondria, which are critical for our energy levels and overall health. Functional medicine doctor Terry Wahls, M.D., recommends taking B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc when you're on antibiotics, all of which help support the healthy functioning of your mitochondria.

We hope you don't need antibiotics anytime soon, but if you do, remember that they're necessary at times, and there's a lot you can do to counter their potentially negative effects.

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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