For anyone who menstruates and wants to prevent pregnancy, hormonal birth control can be a saving grace. And while options such as “the pill” are highly effective and generally quite safe, like all medications they bring a risk of side effects that can impact the health of your heart.
At Upper East Cardiology in the Upper East Side of New York City, Dr. Satjit Bhusri offers comprehensive cardiovascular care for women, with a focus on preventive heart care and treatment for existing conditions.
Read on to learn about the impact hormonal birth control methods may have on your heart health and ways you can minimize related risks.
How hormonal birth control method works
Hormonal birth control methods use the hormones estrogen and/or progestins to prevent pregnancy by keeping mucus in your cervix thick so that sperm can’t pass into your uterus or keeping your ovaries from releasing eggs. As a result, an egg can’t be fertilized to create a pregnancy. They come in a variety of forms, including pill, patch, under-the-skin implant, injection, and vaginal ring.
How the added hormones impact your heart
Increasing your estrogen or progestin levels can impact your heart health in several ways, including raising your blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and lower your HDL, or “good” cholesterol. If these issues go unmanaged, you run the risk of more serious heart-related issues, such as blocked arteries, angina (a type of chest pain), heart attack, and stroke.
Your risk for cardiovascular problems related to hormonal birth control is highest if you:
- Already have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes
- Are age 36 or older
- Get migraines with aura
- Have a history of blood clots, heart attack, or stroke
What to do about heart health risk and birth control
As with all medications, it’s important to choose one for which the benefits outweigh the risks. And those risks vary from person to person. For these reasons, Dr. Bhusri and your gynecologist can help you consider the pros and cons and make the wisest, most informed decision.
If you're healthy overall and don't smoke, you can probably safely use hormonal birth control. If you have particular risk factors for heart disease, you may benefit from options such as:
- Birth control that uses minimal or no hormones, such as a copper IUD or condoms
- Continuing hormonal birth control, but with blood pressure and cholesterol monitoring
- Making sure you lead an exceptionally heart-healthy lifestyle
To learn more about hormonal birth control and heart health or get a sense of your own risk factors for heart disease, call Upper East Side Cardiology or request an appointment with Dr. Bhusrithrough our website.