Wegovy’s Potential Benefits for Overweight Individuals: Lowering Heart Attack and Stroke Risks

Wegovy's Potential Benefits For Overweight Individuals: Lowering Heart Attack And Stroke Risks

A recent study has found that the weight loss drug Wegovy (semaglutide) can lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes for individuals with overweight or obesity. This study provides the first substantial evidence that Wegovy has cardiovascular benefits. In the study, 17,604 adults with overweight or obesity were randomly assigned to either a placebo or a 2.4 milligram dose of Wegovy. All participants had pre-existing heart disease but did not have type 2 diabetes.

After a span of five years, it was observed that participants on Wegovy had a 20% lower likelihood of experiencing a heart attack or stroke, or dying from cardiovascular-related causes. This information was released by Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of the drug, in a preliminary statement. The detailed results of the study are yet to be published in a medical journal, which is the standard process for independent experts to verify the findings. Novo Nordisk plans to present these results at a medical conference later in the year.

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Shauna Levy, MD, medical director of the bariatric and weight loss center at Tulane University School of Medicine, expressed enthusiasm about the study results. She explains that the weight loss and improvements in cholesterol and hypertension associated with Wegovy are known risk factors for cardiovascular disease reduction.

Wegovy belongs to a class of medications called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonists. These drugs mimic the function of GLP-1, a gut hormone that promotes feelings of satiety and fullness after eating. Semaglutide, the active ingredient in Wegovy, is also found in two other medications for type 2 diabetes, Ozempic and Rybelsus. Ozempic has already been approved by the FDA to prevent heart attacks and strokes in individuals with type 2 diabetes. A two-year clinical trial showed a 26% decrease in the risk of these events with Ozempic, mainly driven by a 39% reduction in nonfatal strokes.

Other GLP-1 drugs, such as dulaglutide (Trulicity) and liraglutide (Victoza), are FDA-approved for reducing the risk of heart disease in certain individuals with type 2 diabetes. These drugs aid in managing various cardiovascular disease risk factors like high blood sugar, obesity, inflammation, and high blood pressure.

Despite the promising results of the Wegovy study, caution is advised when drawing broader conclusions about its potential to protect the heart. Steven Nissen, MD, chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner School of Medicine, cautions against relying solely on one study. He is conducting a weight loss study on another GLP-1 drug called tirzepatide. Past trials of obesity drugs have failed to show a significant reduction in cardiovascular outcomes; hence, more long-term research is necessary.

Nevertheless, the study results highlight the potential benefits of weight loss medications beyond simply shedding pounds. Weight loss leads to increased physical activity, reduced joint pain, and improved mobility, which, in turn, benefits cardiovascular health.

To maintain the weight loss and heart benefits, individuals may need to take Wegovy as a long-term treatment, similar to medications used for other chronic conditions. Stopping the medication could potentially diminish the cardiovascular benefits. Therefore, detailed, long-term studies are crucial to establish the safety and effectiveness of Wegovy and other GLP-1 drugs, according to Shauna Levy, MD, and Steven Nissen, MD.

Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, president of the American Heart Association, and director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, also finds the preliminary results encouraging. He emphasizes the need for further research to confirm the safety and efficacy of semaglutide and similar drugs in the overweight population. If confirmed, semaglutide and GLP-1 drugs could have a significant impact on the treatment of cardiovascular disease for individuals with overweight or obesity.

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