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News about health, medicines and treatments – January 2024

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The start of 2024 brought exciting news about health, medicines and treatments. Here are three of the most interesting announcements that appeared on news websites in January:

  • Hypertension
    A study published in one of the leading journals dealing with cardiology brought up some unexpected results. It seems that hypertension may be infectious, in the broadest sense that if one member of a couple has developed symptoms of heart failure or high blood pressure, there is a significant chance that their partner will have them too.
  • Weight loss drugs
    As interest in weight-loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy has rocketed, there’s been a parallel increase in fears, rumors, and speculation that they bring with them exceptional and unacknowledged risks. The results of an analysis conducted worldwide have just been published. It has identified and evaluated the possible negative side effects but takes the extra step of balancing these against the benefits that weight loss brings in terms of overall health.
  • Testosterone replacement therapy
    New information has come out of studies conducted over several years into the safety of testosterone replacement therapy in middle-aged and older men. On January 18th, the website Medscape published a video interview with Dr. Mo Khera, a professor of urology and president of the Sexual Medicine Society of North America. It brings some exciting insights into the area of using simple therapy like testosterone supplementation to address the pervasive problems of sexual performance that are coming from hormone deficiencies.

Hypertension may be shared by couplesCouple identity

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the leading cause of death from heart disease and stroke worldwide. While many health systems focus on individual patients, a recent study suggests that couple-focused strategies could be key to improving diagnosis and management of hypertension.

The study, based on an analysis in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that people are more likely to have hypertension if their spouse does as well. This is called spousal concordance of disease and is likely due to shared lifestyles and living environments.The prevalence of concordant hypertension varies across countries. It’s highest in the U.S. and England (around 3% and 4% of couples, respectively) and lower in China and India 78(around 2%). However, the association between spouses’ hypertension is stronger in China and India, possibly due to cultural differences in family closeness.

These findings suggest that couple-focused interventions could be beneficial for preventing and managing hypertension. This could include things like pursuing healthy habits together, reminding each other to take medication, and even visiting the doctor together. The study also highlights the need for a paradigm shift in the approach to chronic diseases. Instead of focusing solely on individuals, we should consider the influence of close relationships like marriage. Clinicians and public health practitioners can play a role in this shift by doing the following:

  • Encouraging individuals with a spouse with hypertension to get regular checkups.
  • Developing and implementing couple-focused interventions for blood pressure control.
  • Conducting research to better understand the mechanisms of spousal concordance of disease.

By working together, we can create a healthier future for couples and communities around the world.

Here are some additional points from the article:

  • The study was based on data from middle-aged and older heterosexual couples in four countries.
  • The marriage rate in the U.S. has been declining, but most older Americans are still married or live with a partner.

Loneliness and isolation have been labeled as an epidemic by the Surgeon General and can contribute to multiple health problems. Previous studies have shown the benefits of joint disease screening and management for couples.

The risks and rewards of weight loss meds
Weight Loss Pills, Scales and Measuring Tape

The most important news about health in the world of weight loss treatments comes from the approval of Wegovy (semaglutide) in January 2023 marked a significant milestone. This medication belongs to a group known as GLP-1 receptor agonists, which have been hailed for their effectiveness in managing obesity. However, Many people are becoming worried when they hear some of the technical talk about the recent findings about GLP-1RA medicines that highlight the potential for rare but severe side effects, particularly when used for diabetes treatment.

Putting this news about health in simple terms. Semaglutide works by mimicking certain hormones in the intestines, tricking the body into feeling fuller, thus helping in weight control. While its primary negative side effects often involve the digestive system, like nausea or constipation, there’s a growing concern about more serious complications. A recent study, as reported in JAMA, a well-known medical journal, has brought to light some statistics causing concern. It turns out that using GLP-1 receptor agonists like semaglutide could significantly increase the risk of severe gastric problems. To give you a perspective, compared to an older weight-loss drug, Wellbutrin, the risk of developing pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) is nine times higher with GLP-1 receptor agonists. Additionally, issues like intestinal obstruction and gastroparesis (a condition where the stomach can’t empty in the normal way) are also more common with these drugs.

However, before jumping to conclusions, it’s crucial to understand the concept of absolute risk versus relative risk. Although these severe side effects are indeed more common with GLP-1 receptor agonists compared to other drugs, the actual chance of experiencing them is still less than 1% per year of use. So, while the relative risk is high, the absolute risk remains low. One prominent figure in obesity research, the co-director of the Office of Obesity Research at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, acknowledges that while the increased risk is significant, the overall likelihood of these side effects occurring is relatively small.

Taken as a whole, the benefits of using semaglutide for individuals with severe obesity still outweigh these risks. It’s a classic case of weighing the pros and cons of medication. Every drug has its own set of potential side effects, and doctors and patients need to be aware of them. In the case of semaglutide and similar medications, being informed about the rare but serious risks is critical,  especially for those considering it as a treatment option for obesity

In summary, the latest news about health about semaglutide represents a breakthrough in obesity therapy. Still, it’s important to approach it with a balanced perspective. Understanding the benefits and being aware of the risks is a key part of making informed health decisions.

Testosterone replacement therapy through the use of gels

Senior men at health club

The use of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) has sparked a lot of debate and concern especially regarding its impact on health. A recent comprehensive study has provided insights into these concerns shedding light on the safety and benefits of testosterone therapy.

One focus of the study was to examine how testosterone affects the risk of events like heart attacks and strokes. Surprisingly the results showed that men who received testosterone gel did not have an increased risk of these events compared to those who were given a placebo. This finding challenges the concerns that testosterone might raise the likelihood of heart related problems.

Another important aspect explored in the study was how testosterone influences prostate cancer. Prostate cancer has been associated with concerns about testosterone therapy. However, the study found no increased risk for high-grade prostate cancer or any form of prostate cancer in men undergoing testosterone therapy. These findings align with the guidelines set by the American Urological Association (AUA) in 2018, which also indicated no heightened risk of prostate cancer from testosterone treatment.

In terms of sexual health and performance, the latest news about health revealed that testosterone treatment significantly improved activity and libido. While it didn’t directly enhance function, it did contribute to maintaining an improvement in desire and activity for up to 24 months.

This discovery is significant for men who are experiencing a decrease in desire as it suggests that testosterone treatment could be beneficial for them.

Furthermore, the research delved into how testosterone affects aspects of health such as anemia, diabetes and bone fractures. A noteworthy finding was the impact of testosterone on anemia. Patients with anemia who received testosterone experienced an improvement in their condition. This finding is significant because testosterone is known to increase the number of blood cells (erythrocytosis) which effectively helped treat anemia.

One crucial reassurance from the study relates to symptoms. There were concerns that testosterone therapy may worsen these symptoms; however the study found no evidence supporting this claim. In fact there was no increased risk of symptom deterioration among those treated with testosterone according to warnings on testosterone product labels.

Lastly the study addressed misconceptions and concerns surrounding testosterone therapy. The fear that testosterone might lead to heart attacks or worsen prostate cancer has made many healthcare providers hesitant to prescribe it. This study provides needed clarification by dispelling these fears and reinforcing the safety profile of managed testosterone therapy.

In summary this study presents a perspective on the benefits and safety of using testosterone therapy. The research supports the idea that there is no risk of events or prostate cancer associated with using testosterone therapy. It also highlights the impact of testosterone treatment in addressing the issue of sexual performance. This information is crucial for both patients and healthcare providers as it offers an understanding and assurance in utilizing testosterone therapy.

One other important thing that comes out of these studies is the benefit of testosterone gels rather than oral medications. The box warnings on many of the oral forms of testosterone replacement medications turn out not to be relevant for gels. 

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