Taking antibiotics for an extended period can raise the risk of heart attack or stroke, according to a US study published in the European Heart Journal. Women aged 60 or older who take antibiotics for two or more months can be at the most significant risk of cardiovascular disease, with raised risk for women between 40-59 years of age. However, researchers did not see an increased risk from antibiotic use in younger adults aged 20-39.

Lead study author, Lu Qi, director of Tulane University, says that antibiotic use is the most critical factor in changing the balance of microorganisms in the stomach. Earlier studies indicated a link between changes in the microbiotic environment of the gut and inflammation, narrowing of the blood vessels, stroke and heart disease.

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‘This is an observational study, and so it cannot show that antibiotics cause heart disease and stroke, only that there is a link between them,’ Qi adds.

‘Our study suggests that antibiotics should be used only when they are absolutely needed. Considering the potentially cumulative adverse effects, the shorter time of antibiotic use the better.’