LONG-TERM use of antibiotics raises the risk of heart attacks and strokes in women, a major study suggests.
Those who had used the drugs for at least two months were up to a third more likely to develop cardiovascular disease.
Getty – Contributor Taking antibiotics for more than two months could increase your risk of a stroke or heart attack by 34 per cent
Researchers believe antibiotics destroy “good” bacteria in the gut and increase the number of disease-causing germs.
Changes to the environment in the gut have previously been linked to inflammation and narrowing of blood vessels.
The boffins, from Tulane University, in New Orleans, studied 36,429 women aged 60 and over for an average of eight years.
Some 1,056 developed cardiovascular disease during this time.
Those who used antibiotics for at least two months when aged 60 or over were 32 per cent more likely to suffer than non-users.
Antibiotic use was also linked to a 28 per cent higher risk if taken for a total of two months or more between the ages of 40 and 59.
But using the drugs at a younger age made no difference to risk.
The most common reasons for antibiotic use were respiratory infections, urinary tract infections and dental problems.
Study leader Prof Lu Qi said: “Antibiotic use is the most critical factor in altering the balance of microorganisms in the gut.
“Previous studies have shown a link between alterations in the microbiotic environment of the gut and inflammation and narrowing of the blood vessels, stroke and heart disease.
“Our study suggests that antibiotics should be used only when they are absolutely needed.
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“Considering the potentially cumulative adverse effects, the shorter the time of antibiotic use the better.”
The findings are published in the European Heart Journal.
The researchers only studied women and say the results may not be the same for men.
Antibiotics: A ticking timebomb