The female heart can suffer harm in a number of ways. Certain types of chemotherapeutic agents can create major cardiac injury, viruses can cause myocarditis, and radiation can do serious damage to the coronary arteries and to the muscle tissue itself.
But heart health can be adversely affected by something that millions of women take every day – the ubiquitous birth control pill. It’s easy to believe that birth control pills are harmless hormonal contraceptives, but the reality is most women are still in the dark about what they are actually ingesting. In fact, they contain no hormones at all.
One of the main ingredients of birth control pills are toxic endocrine disruptors, designed to prevent normal hormone production. I’ve said this many times, but allow me to reiterate – there is no estrogen in the Pill. Its main ingredient is ethinyl estradiol, an endocrine disruptor and estrogen’s evil twin.
Endocrine disruptors have a similar structure to hormones, but they’re simply mimics; their role is to interfere with the functions of the real hormone, and in the case of estrogen there is huge potential for harm, given that estrogen plays a role in nearly every aspect of heart and cardiovascular health. Estrogen is actually a key player in heart function.
To illustrate its importance, one only has to look at the heart muscle, or myocardium; it’s filled with estrogen receptors! Estrogen also creates a growth factor called vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, which is needed for the initiation of new blood vessels. These functions enable the heart muscle to have greater viability and health, which can save a life if a heart attack occurs. The more efficient the blood supply to the heart, the better.
There are other receptors in the heart muscle for substances we haven’t even yet identified called estrogen-related receptors, which are critically important for the function of the heart, particularly for the creation of energy, and estrogen also keeps the heart healthy through the production of nitric oxide, a short-lived gas which acts as a signaling agent and anti-oxidant.
Estrogen also protects the heart by keeping free radicals at bay, supporting the healthy functions of mitochondria, is an important hormone in keeping the metabolic machine well-oiled, and plays a part in repairing wear and tear to heart valves. By disrupting the supply of estrogen, these functions are lost.
Clearly, anything that interferes with the function or production of estrogen creates a huge potential problem. However, the evolution of cardiac dysfunction takes time, and allows a disconnect to develop between the use of birth control pills and their long term cardiovascular injury, so the causes of heart problems aren’t always identified, meaning there is a lack of empirical evidence.
Studies are therefore needed, but there is seemingly a lack of interest in the relationship of birth control pills and the evolution of an unhealthy heart and vasculature. I, for one, feel that more needs to be done.