Oral contraceptive use is associated with increased cardiovascular reactivity in nonsmokers

Sheila G. West, Catherine M. Stoney, Joel W. Hughes, Mala Matacin, Karen M. Emmons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Women who smoke and take oral contraceptives (OCs) have significantly increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but the exact mechanisms for the increased risk are not known. Cardiovascular reactivity to psychological stress may be one mechanism for the enhanced risk, but the small number of studies examining whether OC users who smoke have greater reactivity have produced mixed results. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of chronic cigarette smoking, acute nicotine administration, and OC use on cardiovascular and lipid reactivity. Sixty healthy women, half of whom had been using OCs for at least the previous 6 months, participated in the study. Approximately two thirds were smokers and were randomized to be tested after either a 12-hr nicotine deprivation or administration of nicotine gum. One third were nonsmokers. Heart rate, blood pressure, and lipid measures were taken at rest, during a videotaped speech task, and during recovery from the task. Results indicated that, among OC nonusers, there was no effect of smoking status or nicotine administration on cardiovascular reactivity. However, among OC users, nonsmokers had significantly greater heart rate and diastolic blood pressure reactivity to stress. These data show that acute nicotine administration, in the form of nicotine gum, has no effect on cardiovascular or lipid stress reactivity in women. However, OC use among nonsmoking women is associated with greater cardiovascular reactivity to stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-157
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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