Women have unique risk factors for heart disease. Two of these are birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy.
Birth control pills
Healthy, young, nonsmoking women probably do not increase their risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) when they take low-dose birth control pills (oral contraceptives).
But if a woman has other significant risk factors for CAD, taking birth control pills may further increase this risk. For instance, birth control pills are more likely to increase a woman's risk if she is older than 35 and smokes cigarettes. Birth control pills may raise "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) and lower "good" cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL).
Taking estrogen with or without progestin does not prevent coronary artery disease. In fact, if you are 10 or more years past menopause, taking hormone therapy may raise your risk of coronary artery disease.1
Talk to your doctor about your risks with hormone therapy. And carefully weigh its benefits against the risks of taking it. If you need relief for symptoms of menopause, hormone therapy is one choice you can think about. But there are other types of treatment for problems like hot flashes and sleep problems.
For more information see Women and Coronary Artery Disease.
- Rossouw JE, et al. (2007). Postmenopausal hormone therapy and risk of cardiovascular disease by age and years since menopause. JAMA, 297(13): 1465–1477.
Other Works Consulted
- Charney P (2011). Women and coronary artery disease. In V Fuster et al., eds., Hurst's The Heart, 13th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2226–2240. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Mosca L, et al. (2011). Effectiveness-based guidelines for the prevention of cardiovascular disease in women 2011 update: A guideline from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 123(11): 1243–1262.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology|
|Last Revised||April 6, 2012|
Last Revised: April 6, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
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