Oral Contraceptives Blamed for Stroke and Heart Attack Risk

A recent study of nearly 1500 Belgian women aged 35 to 55 found that those women taking oral
contraceptives (birth control pills) had a nearly 30 percent increased chance of forming dangerous
plaque in their arteries. Synthetic forms of estrogen are used in oral contraceptives and hormone
replacement can form plaque: a thick, hard deposit that can clog arteries.

Atherosclerotic plaque is comprised of cholesterol, bacteria and calcium which adheres to the
inner lining of damaged arteries. Lack of sufficient plant pigments (such as carotenoids,
chlorophyll, resveratrol) is generally thought to be a major cause of damage to the arterial walls.

Women are much less likely, in general, than men to have strokes or heart attacks due to
cholesterol build-up in their arteries. Women’s cardiovascular disease is more likely to be in the
peripheral (small) vessels, or be caused by low mineral (especially magnesium) status, causing
spasms of the heart muscle and vessels, as opposed to reduced oxygen flow to the heart and
brain due to plaque. However, women on the pill approach the risk of men for plaque formation,
according to this new study, reported at the October meeting of the American Heart Association
in Orlando, Florida.

Birth control pills are taken by about 100 million women worldwide. While liberation from fear of
pregnancy is a crucial part of women’s march towards emancipation, “the pill” poses risks. If
taken for more than 10 years, this new study says, women run the risk of clogged arteries, which
can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Previous studies had shown that synthetic hormones used for birth control greatly increased the
risk of blood clotting. Older forms of birth control pills combine estradiol and progestin, two
laboratory-made mimics of the female sex hormones. Two years ago, a big pharmaceutical
company, Johnson and Johnson, finally recalled the Ortho Evra patch after definitive proof that
women on the patch were dying of strokes and blot clots three times more frequently than the
general population. FDA records show that seventeen patch users between the ages of 17 and
30 suffered fatal heart attacks, blood clots and possible strokes between August 2002 and November 2005.

The pills in the study were not the newer, very low dose hormones, which may confer less risk.
However, what’s new with the Belgian study is the addition of atherosclerotic plaque formation, in
relatively young women, to the risk of clot formation. Clots typically form in the legs and can
cause serious injury and death if they travel to the heart, lungs or brain.

Other problems with synthetic estrogen, in any dose, shown through published scientific studies
include depletion of folic acid, magnesium, tyrosine (an amino acid important in thyroid function,
among other actions), zinc, and vitamins B1, B3, B6, B12 and C

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