Women have unique risk factors for heart disease. These include pregnancy-related problems as well as medicines they may be taking, such as birth control pills or hormone therapy.
Healthy, young, nonsmoking women probably do not increase their risk
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
If you have menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness, you might consider hormone therapy (HT) to relieve your symptoms. Because menopause and hormones are linked with the health of your blood vessels, you and your doctor will discuss your health and your risk of heart disease to make sure hormone therapy is safe for you. Risk for heart disease and other health problems varies based on when you start HT in menopause and how long you take it. Short-term use of hormone therapy in early menopause has less risk than when it is started later in menopause. Risk also depends on the type of HT used (estrogen or estrogen plus progestin).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.
North American Menopause Society (2012). The 2012 hormone therapy position statement of
the North American Menopause Society. Menopause, 19(3): 257–271. Also
available online: http://www.menopause.org/PSht12.pdf.
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.
January 17, 2013
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
& Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
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