The Heart of the Matter

Estrogen linked to increased high blood pressure, not heart health

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Birth control has long been viewed not only as effective, but also heart healthy. In the 1960s it was a sign of empowerment, but could estrogen-based birth control pills be leading to increased high blood pressure instead?

Doctors have long believed that estrogen-based oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy contributed to a healthy heart. However, recent studies by Michigan State University researchers suggest otherwise. A new study indicates that chronic exposure to estrogen may lead to high blood pressure.

"If you're on the pill, eat red grapes or drink red wine."

The recent Michiagn State research suggests that extended exposure to low levels of estrogen is dangerous for women and has been linked to heart attacks and strokes. Researches were unable to explain how the estrogen boost leads to high blood pressure, but said that prolonged exposure creates stress in women's bodies.

The added stress is generated by a compound called superoxide, which builds up in an area of the brain that is critical in the regulation of the body's blood pressure. Researchers suggest that this build up in turn causes increased blood pressure.

However, there is a method to combat it. The research demonstrated that resveratrol, a natural antioxidant most commonly found in the skin of red grapes and commonly consumed in red wine, reverses the increase caused by chronic estrogen exposure, reducing the risk of hypertension.

The study marks an important milestone because it explains why chronic estrogen exposure may be dangerous for women, especially because many women routinely use estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy to fight the side effects of menopause.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 27, 2011
Last Updated:
May 31, 2011