The findings, summarised in a Virginia Commonwealth University study paper, could have further significance for those women taking low-dose oral contraceptives who already are at increased risk for such events because of polycystic ovary syndrome, or metabolic disorder, according to John Nestler, M.D., professor and chair of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism in the VCU School of Medicine.

"The study suggests that women in general are at an increased risk of having a cardiovascular event while taking even these third-generation, low-dose, birth control pills," said Nestler.

In the study, researchers reported that the overall estimated risk of cardiovascular events - both heart attack and stroke - among current low-dose oral contraceptive users was doubled compared to non-users.

The findings are based on a meta-analysis of peer-reviewed literature. The researchers examined several separate-but-similar experiments that were designed to assess the risk of cardiovascular disease associated with the current use of low-dose oral contraceptives in the population-at-large.

"Prolonged exposure to low-dose oral contraceptives in a population at higher risk may significantly increase the incidence of cardiovascular outcomes and prompt consideration of alternative therapeutic or contraceptive interventions," Nestler wrote.

"Despite the doubling of risk associated with the pill, the absolute risk for a cardiovascular event in an individual woman taking the pill is low. Women using the pill are not going to automatically have a heart attack," said Nestler. "However, our findings do raise the issue of whether oral contraceptives are optimal therapy for certain groups of women who are at baseline risk or who are taking the pill for a longer time."

MEDICA.de; Source: Virginia Commonwealth University