160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre About 16million American women currently take birth-control pills and hundreds of millions have used them since they were first sold in 1960. Most combine synthetic estrogen and progestin in various doses. They already are known to carry a small risk of blood clots and high blood pressure for women currently taking them, and any additional heart attack or stroke risk is thought to be related to those two effects, Manson said. Researchers at the University of Ghent in Belgium decided to look for other signs of heart risks among past and current pill users. They studied about 1,300 healthy women ages 35 to 55 taking part in a long-running observational study in the small town of Erpe-Mere. About 81percent had taken oral contraceptives for more than a year at some point in their lives – similar to the prevalence the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports for American women ages 15 to 44, said the study’s leader, Dr. Ernst Rietzschel. About 27percent were current users. ORLANDO, Fla. – A troubling study from Belgium hints that long-term use of oral contraceptives – at least the high-estrogen ones sold decades ago – might increase the chances of having artery buildups that can raise the risk of heart disease. The theory needs much more rigorous testing than this single small study, but is important because of the sheer number of women now taking the pill – 100million worldwide. “I don’t think this should be a cause for alarm among women,” because many previous studies have found no large increase in heart attacks among pill users, said Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She had no role in the new study, which was presented Tuesday at an American Heart Association conference in Florida.