- Smoking and Oral Contraceptives
Tied To Heart Risks
- NEW YORK, Mar 16 (Reuters Health) -- The combination of
oral contraceptives, smoking, and stress enhances a number of cardiovascular risk factors,
offering one more explanation for the increased rate of heart disease in
oral contraceptive users who smoke. "Even today, the latest types of oral contraceptives with lower doses of
hormones than those of decades ago appear to have harmful effects when combined with smoking and stress," said
Dr. Mary C. Davis in a statement issued by the Center for the Advancement of Health..
In a study, 52 women performed two stressful tasks -- a series of
timed math problems, and making a speech defending their innocence after being falsely
accused of wrongdoing, according to Davis, a researcher at Arizona
State University in Tempe.
The stressful tasks triggered an increase in systolic blood pressure in
oral contraceptive users who smoked, particularly if they smoked immediately before
performing the stressful task, the study findings show. Overall, cardiovascular reactivity
to stress was higher in oral contraceptive users, but only if they were also smokers.
In all smokers, regardless of whether or not they used oral contraceptives,
stress was associated with raised total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein ("bad")
cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in the blood. Davis also observed an increase in
fibrinogen, a blood-clotting protein, following stress among all women in the study, according
to the report in the March issue of Health Psychology.
The exact mechanisms underlying these interactions between oral contraceptive
use, smoking, and stress are unclear.
It is possible that stress causes blood vessel constriction, which,
combined with an increase in blood viscosity, or "stickiness," may be the reason that
smokers who take oral contraceptives are at increased risk for blood clot formation.
This risk may also contribute to an increased risk for heart disease, Davis concluded.
- SOURCE: Health Psychology 1999;18.
1999 -- All Rights Reserved|