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Women aged 60 or older who took antibiotics for two months or more had the greatest risk of cardiovascular disease, but the long duration of antibiotic use was also associated with an increased risk if taken during middle age (aged 40-59). Women who take antibiotics over a long period of time are at increased risk of heart attack or stroke, a study claims.

The study, published in the European Heart Journal, found that women aged 60 or older who took antibiotics for two months or more had the greatest risk of cardiovascular disease, but the long duration of antibiotic use was also associated with an increased risk if taken during middle age (aged 40-59). The researchers could find no increased risk from antibiotic use by younger adults aged 20-39. The possible reason why antibiotic use is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease is that antibiotics alter the balance of the micro environment in the gut, researchers 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 macrobiotic environment of the gut and inflammation and narrowing of the blood vessels, stroke, and heart disease," said Lu Qi, director of the Tulane University in the US. The researchers studied 36,429 women who took part in the Nurses' Health Study, which has been running in the USA since 1976. The current study looked at data from 2004 to June 2012.

In 2004 the women were aged 60 or older, and they were asked about their use of antibiotics when they were young (20-39), middle-aged (40-59) or older (60 and older). The researchers categorized them into four groups: those who had never taken antibiotics, those who had taken them for time periods of less than 15 days, 15 days to two months, or for two months or longer.

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