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Birth Control Pills, Hormone Therapy, and Coronary Artery Disease


Topic Overview

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).

Hormone therapy

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 the 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 the topic Menopause and Perimenopause.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. 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 (2008). Women and coronary artery disease. In V Fuster et al., eds., Hurst's The Heart, 12th ed., pp. 2275–2290. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerJohn A. McPherson, MD, FACC, FSCAI - Cardiology
Last RevisedMay 1, 2010

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