Every two weeks, we gather some of the most interesting and intriguing studies from health researchers around the world. Here are the latest:
Can women with diabetes safely be prescribed hormonal birth control, such as intrauterine devices or under-the-skin implants?
Absolutely, according a new study co-authored by a UC Davis Health System professor. Ten years of recent data show that women with diabetes using most forms of hormonal contraception are not at higher risk for heart attacks, strokes or blood clots, the study found.
Many physicians don’t offer diabetic women the option of hormone-based contraception, the authors said, due to concerns they’re at greater risk of those heart-related issues, collectively known as thromboembolism.
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Looking at data from 2002 to 2011 of about 150,000 females of reproductive age with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, the researchers found that the occurence of strokes, heart attacks or blood clots was low, about 6.3 incidents per 1,000 women a year.
The hormonal contraception options with the lowest incidence of thromboembolism were IUDs and under-the-skin implants. Rates were highest among women who used the contraceptive patch.
“Clinicians need to get beyond the idea that birth control just means ‘the pill,’” said study senior author Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, UC Davis professor of internal medicine, in a statement. “There are options that are safe and effective for all women, including those with diabetes.”
The study also called it “alarming” that about 72 percent of diabetic women studied did not receive any prescription contraception.
“Pregnancy timing is critical for women with diabetes … (to) ensure that the diabetes is under good control, because high sugars can cause an increased chance of birth defects,” said co-author Sarah O’Brien, associate professor with Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, in a statement.
The study is being published in Diabetes Care journal.
Fewer prescription drugs in the new year?
Here’s an annual resolution aimed at baby boomers: Cut your daily prescriptions to fewer than five.
That’s New Year’s advice from an associate geriatrics professor at the St. Louis University School of Medicine, who urges everyone over age 65 to ask their doctor about paring down their daily prescription medications to no more than four.
It’s similar to advice from other researchers and pharmacists, who say patients should ask their doctor every year to review their medication list, including supplements and over-the-counter medications. As people age, it’s not unusual for doctors and specialists to prescribe multiple prescriptions to treat such common ailments as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and memory loss.
“Some older adults believe taking a pill will make them healthier, which is not always the case, particularly when they’re taking many pills for different health issues. Too many medicines can make older adults feel fatigued and undermine the quality of their lives,” said Milta Little, in a statement. She said six prescription drugs are too many, noting that studies have shown mortality rates are higher among patients taking 10 medicines.
She said a drug prescribed for you 10 years ago may no longer be useful. Same with dosages: What you were taking as a younger adult may be too strong for an aging body.
Drug interactions are another concern. Something prescribed for one condition can make another another condition worse. For instance, antidepressants can cause frequent urination, which can lead to incontinence, Little said. Statins and blood thinners worsen frailty, which makes patients vulnerable to other medical problems.
According to a study published earlier this year, an in-home survey of 2,200 older adults, ages 62 to 85, found that 15 percent of them were potentially at risk for “a major drug-drug interaction,” compared with only 8.4 percent of older adults in 2005-2006. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, said the increased risk was mainly due to an increase in dietary supplements taken in conjunction with prescription and over-the-counter medications.