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4 months ago
Does Oral Contraceptive Harm the Heart?

Oral contraceptive (OC) is a popular and effective method of birth control that contains synthetic hormones, usually a combination of estrogen and progestin, that prevent ovulation and pregnancy. OC has many advantages, such as regulating menstrual cycles, reducing menstrual pain and bleeding, and lowering the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer1. However, OC may also have some effects on the heart health of women who use it, depending on their individual risk factors and the type and dose of hormones in the pills. In this article, we will explore the possible benefits and harms of OC on the heart, and provide some tips on how to choose and use OC safely.

How does OC benefit the heart?

Improving the lipid profile. OC may improve the lipid profile of some women who use it, especially those who have low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides (bad) cholesterol. OC can increase the HDL cholesterol and decrease the triglycerides in some women, which can help prevent the buildup of plaque in the arteries and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

How does OC harm the heart?

OC may also have some harmful effects on the heart health of women who use it, such as:

  • Increasing the risk of blood clots.
OC can increase the risk of developing blood clots in the veins, especially in the legs. These clots can break off and travel to the lungs, causing a life-threatening condition called pulmonary embolism. OC can also increase the risk of developing blood clots in the arteries, which can block the blood flow to the heart and cause a heart attack, or to the brain and cause a stroke. OC can increase the risk of blood clots by making the blood thicker and more likely to stick together, and by affecting the proteins that control the clotting process. The risk of blood clots is higher for OC that contain higher doses of estrogen, and for women who smoke, are older than 35, are overweight, or have a family history of blood clots.
  • Increasing the blood pressure.
OC can also raise the blood pressure of some women who use it, which can put more strain on the heart and blood vessels, and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. OC can increase the blood pressure by affecting the balance of fluids and salts in the body, and by making the blood vessels more sensitive to certain hormones. The effect of OC on the blood pressure depends on the type and dose of hormones in the pills, as well as the age, weight, and medical history of the user235.
  • Changing the cholesterol levels.
OC can also alter the cholesterol levels of some women who use it, especially those who have high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol or low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. OC can increase the LDL cholesterol and decrease the HDL cholesterol in some women, which can lead to the buildup of plaque in the arteries and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. The effect of OC on the cholesterol levels depends on the type and dose of hormones in the pills, as well as the genetic and lifestyle factors of the user.

How to choose and use OC safely?

The decision to use OC should be made in consultation with a doctor, who can assess the individual situation and advise on the best option. The doctor can also monitor the health of the user regularly and prescribe medications or other treatments if needed. Some general tips on how to choose and use OC safely are:

  • Choose the right type and dose of OC.
Not all OC are the same, and some may be more suitable than others, depending on the risk factors and preferences of the user. Generally, OC that contain lower doses of estrogen and newer types of progestin have less impact on the heart health than OC that contain higher doses of estrogen and older types of progestin. However, the choice of OC should be based on the individual needs and characteristics of the user, and not on the general recommendations.

  • Follow the instructions and directions.
OC should be taken as prescribed by the doctor, and according to the instructions and directions on the package. OC should be taken at the same time every day, and missed pills should be avoided or compensated for as soon as possible. OC should not be stopped or changed without the doctor’s approval, as this can cause a rebound effect, where the hormone levels fluctuate and increase the risk of blood clots, heart attack, or stroke.

  • Report any side effects or concerns.
OC may cause some side effects or complications, such as nausea, headache, breast tenderness, spotting, mood changes, or allergic reactions. Some of these side effects may be mild and temporary, while others may be serious and persistent. OC may also interact with some medications or supplements, such as antibiotics, anticonvulsants, anticoagulants, or herbal remedies. OC users should report any side effects or concerns to their doctor as soon as possible, and seek medical attention if they experience any signs or symptoms of blood clots, heart attack, or stroke, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, leg swelling, severe headache, vision changes, or weakness.

  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle.
OC users should also adopt a healthy lifestyle to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke, and to enhance the benefits of OC. A healthy lifestyle includes eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, managing stress, and maintaining a healthy weight. A healthy lifestyle can help lower the cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight of OC users, as well as provide them with essential nutrients and antioxidants that protect the heart.

Conclusion

OC is a safe and effective method of birth control for most women, but it may also have some effects on the heart health of women who use it. By being aware of the possible benefits and harms of OC on the heart, and by following some tips on how to choose and use OC safely, OC users can reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke and enjoy a longer and happier life. Remember, your heart health is in your hands.