Can common antibiotics harm your heart? Research links them to increased risk of heart conditions
01/25/2021 // Virgilio Marin // Views

It is becoming increasingly clear that pharmaceutical antibiotics are not the life-saving drugs their makers say they are. Prone to misuse, antibiotics have given rise to a new breed of drug-resistant bacteria called "superbugs," creating one of the most dangerous public health crises of this time.

On top of this, antibiotics have numerous side effects. They can cause changes to the blood, discolor your teeth, upset your stomach and trigger allergies.

Recently, research has also shown that antibiotics can wreak havoc on your heart and set you up for severe heart ailments later in life. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from Vanderbilt University found that an antibiotic widely used for bronchitis can increase your risk of death due to a heart problem.

Antibiotic raises risk of death due to heart problem

Azithromycin, sold under the brand name Zithromax, is commonly prescribed for ear and lung infections. Many physicians prefer prescribing azithromycin over other antibiotics because it can be taken for fewer days. Compared to the typical 10-day course, a full course of azithromycin is only five days.

The researchers wanted to examine the effect of azithromycin on the heart because past studies have linked the drug to irregular heart rhythm. Additionally, antibiotics in the same class as azithromycin were previously associated with sudden cardiac death.

To that end, the researchers analyzed data on millions of prescriptions for several antibiotics given to around 540,000 Tennessee Medicaid patients between 1992 and 2006. There were 29 heart-related deaths among those who took azithromycin for five days.


The researchers compared the risk of death between patients taking azithromycin, amoxicillin (another antibiotic) or no antibiotic at all. They calculated that the number of deaths per one million courses of antibiotics would be about 85 among azithromycin patients, versus 32 among amoxicillin patients and 30 among those not taking an antibiotic.

The researchers found that the azithromycin patients were twice more likely to die while taking the drug. There would be 47 extra heart-related deaths per one million courses of azithromycin compared to amoxicillin.

Dr. Bruce Psaty, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington who was not part of the study, said that doctors and patients need to know about the potential risks of taking azithromycin. He noted that the results raised concerns about the long-term use of the antibiotic. For that reason, additional research is needed to determine if that kind of use is dangerous. (Related: Pharmaceutical manufacturers contributing to the development and spread of dangerous, multidrug-resistant pathogens.)

In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration issued a public health warning that azithromycin can cause abnormal changes in the electrical activity of the heart, which can lead to a potentially fatal irregular heart rhythm. Patients with the greatest risk of the condition are those with prolonged QT intervals, potassium or magnesium deficiencies and slow heart rate, as well as people on treatment with drugs for abnormal heart rhythm.

Tips to boost immunity

Stay healthy throughout the year with the following health tips: (h/t to

  • Exercise regularly. Your body functions better when you're active every day.
  • Eat nutrient-rich foods. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C and D by eating foods rich in these essential nutrients, such as leafy greens, citrus fruits, fatty fish and eggs.
  • Incorporate garlic into your diet. A garlic compound called allicin can boost the immune system. To reap this benefit, experts advise eating one-half of a raw garlic clove daily. You can also roast garlic if you prefer not to eat it raw.
  • Get enough sleep. Good quality sleep is important for warding off diseases. Lack of sleep promotes weight gain and higher stress levels. Be sure to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night.

Antibiotics pose a major threat to health and make you more prone to potentially deadly diseases. Avoid getting sick by boosting your immunity with these health tips.

Read more stories on how to strengthen immunity at

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