New Study Links the Pill With Clogging of Women's Arteries - Page 2
Scientists have known for decades that oral contraceptives increase a woman’s cholesterol, increase a woman’s blood pressure and cause insulin resistance (meaning it takes more insulin to maintain a normal blood sugar). All three are known risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Large studies, like the Nurse’s Health Study, have shown no association between past oral contraceptive use and increased cardiovascular disease, but these findings do not lay the issue to rest because of intrinsic problems with study design when researching the long term risks of the pill. There has never been a randomized, double blind placebo controlled trial on the long term risks of the pill, because of obvious ethical issues. Without being able to perform such a study, it is impossible to filter out bias and statistically correct for factors scientists may not even know exist.
As the medical community learns more about cardiovascular disease and develops better tests to assess risk factors, studies are being designed and performed to more accurately answer the question of the pill’s effects on women’s arteries.
One such study was recently published in the Scandinavian Journal on Clinical and Laboratory Investigation, on January 23, 2011. The researchers questioned if the increase in cholesterol caused by oral contraceptives was of a nature that promoted atherosclerosis—in other words, increased the blockage that forms in arteries that leads to heart attack and strokes later in life. The scientists measured the women’s cholesterol and calculated something called the “atherogenic index of plasma” (AIP) before starting oral contraceptives and after 9 months of therapy. Based on the increase in cholesterol and increase in AIP, they concluded it is reasonable to believe that oral contraceptive use is promoting atherosclerosis in women. These findings are consistent with a previous study, presented at a European Cardiovascular Disease conference in 2007, that found a 40% increase in blockage of the arteries of the neck and legs in women who had used the pill for 10 years in their youth. And another study, presented at an American Heart Association in 2009, found a significant increase in the ‘hardening of the arteries’ in women with past oral contraceptive use.Continued on the next page