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Oral contraception can increase heart disease risk
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Taking birth control pills may lead to an increased risk of heart disease, even for women who have stopped taking the pills, said a European study released on Tuesday.

Researchers from Ghent University in Belgium found women who had used oral contraceptives were more likely to have a buildup of plaque in their arteries.

"The main concern is if you have higher plaque levels that you might develop a clot on one of these plaques and have a stroke or a myocardial infarction (heart attack) or sudden cardiac death," Dr. Ernst Rietzschel of Ghent University, who led the research, told reporters.

"That's the main risk with having plaque, with having atherosclerosis."

They studied 1,301 apparently healthy women from the age of 25 to 55 who had used oral contraceptives.

From them, researchers saw a rise of 20 percent to 30 percent in arterial plaque in two big arteries -- the carotid in the neck and the femoral in the leg -- for every 10 years they use oral contraceptives.

But Rietzschel suggested that it was not necessary for women to panic. Other steps can be taken to cut cardiovascular disease risk among these women, like eating a healthier diet, getting more exercise, not smoking and controlling cholesterol.

But he added, "There are other ways of doing contraception. Oral contraception is not the only possibility."

(Agencies via Xinhua News Agency November 8, 2007)

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