How do birth control pills affect risk of heart disease?

Birth control pills may place women at higher risk of high blood pressure and blood clots that can cause stroke or heart attack. Women over age 35, smokers and women with high blood pressure, diabetes or unhealthy cholesterol levels are most at risk. The birth control patch may pose an even greater risk because of its different type of progesterone.

The connection between birth control pills and risk of heart disease remains unclear. If you have other risk factors, such as a history of heart disease in your family or if you are a smoker, talk to your physician about your concerns and options.
Oral contraceptives used to have much higher doses of estrogen than they do today. Such pills increased the risk of vascular and heart disease, especially among women who smoked. American women today typically use pills that have 35 micrograms of estrogen or less. There is a small risk of heart disease for premenopausal women using a pill that has up to 50 micrograms of estrogen. However, even the lower-dose pills carry a risk of increasing blood pressure, and if you have any cardiovascular symptoms or conditions, or if you have diabetes or insulin resistance, be sure to discuss those conditions with a healthcare professional before starting the medication. Also make sure your healthcare professional knows if you smoke. Even with the low-dose pill, smoking boosts the risks of serious cardiovascular problems, particularly in women over 35. Bottom line: You should not smoke and take birth control pills.
Studies show that women who use high-dose oral contraceptives are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. This is because these pills can encourage the formation of blood clots in the blood vessels. Using birth control pills may also worsen the effects of major risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, and excess weight. Stopping birth control pills reduces these risks.
Kelly Anne Spratt, DO
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Oral contraceptives may increase the risk of high blood pressure and blood clots in some women. This risk is compounded if a woman smokes or has additional existing risk factors.

Suzanne Steinbaum, DO
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Birth control pills can potentially increase the risk for clots and heart disease, especially if you smoke or have other risk factors. Watch cardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, explain why talking to your doctor about your risk factors is crucial.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.