In a new study, researchers found that older women who use antibiotics for a long time have higher risks of heart attack and stroke.
The research was conducted by a team from Tulane University, New Orleans and Harvard T.C. Chan School of Public Health.
In the study, they examined nearly 36,500 women aged 60 or older. The women took part in the Nurses’ Health Study, which has been running in the USA since 1976.
The team looked at data from 2004 to June 2012. In 2004, the women were aged 60 or older, and they reported their use of antibiotics when they were young (20-39), middle-aged (40-59) or older (60 and older).
The researchers found that women who took antibiotics for two months or more had the highest risk of heart disease.
Women who used antibiotics in this way in their 60s had a 32% higher risk to develop cardiovascular disease than women who did not use antibiotics.
In addition, women who took antibiotics for longer than two months in middle age had a 28% increased risk compared to women who did not.
No such harmful effects were found in younger adults aged between 20-39.
The team explains that this may be because antibiotics alter the balance of the microenvironment in the gut.
This may destroy “good” probiotic bacteria and increase the prevalence of viruses that can cause heart disease.
The findings are consistent with previous results that a link exists between changes in the gut microbiome and narrowing of the blood vessels, stroke, and heart disease.
The researchers suggest that as women grow older, they may be more likely to need more antibiotics.
The most common reasons for antibiotic use are respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and dental problems.
But the current study shows that long-term use of the drugs may harm their heart health.
The study is the largest prospective study to examine the link between antibiotic use and the risk of heart disease and stroke in women.
One leader of the study is Professor Lu Qi, director of the Tulane University Obesity Research Centre.
The study is published in the European Heart Journal.
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