Today’s Headlines: Contraceptive Pills, Alcohol and Smoking

Some newer forms of birth control pills may carry higher risk of clots. Birth control pills have long been known to slightly increase a woman’s risk for certain types of blood clots. A new study out this week has found that certain newer forms of contraceptive pills may increase that risk more than their older counterparts. “The researchers analyzed patient databases from 2001 and 2013 and found 5,062 cases of clotting among women ages 15 to 49. They matched each of these women with up to five women who did not have a blood clot in the same year but were of similar age and treated at a similar medical practice. Women taking older-generation drugs were about 2.5 times as likely to have a blood clot as women not taking any oral contraceptives over the previous year. Those taking newer types of combined pills were about four times as likely to suffer a clot compared to women not taking oral contraceptives.” That doesn’t mean you should stop your contraception. The researchers are quick to caution that the low risk should be balanced against other considerations. Getting pregnant, for example, increases your risk for clots by ten times, far more than contraceptives. “The newer pills may also result in reduced acne, headache, depression, weight-gain, breast symptoms and breakthrough bleeding compared to older pills.” Those concerned should discuss their risk and different options for contraception with their doctor. (Reuters)

Moderate drinking may not be so good for seniors. Over the last decade, several studies have found evidence that alcohol may be good for the heart in small amounts. But some research is showing that there are caveats to that claim. A new study has found older adults may be at risk for subtle heart issues with just one to two drinks per day. “The study involved more than 4,400 adults, average age 76. The investigators found that women who drank even moderately (one drink daily) experienced a small reduction in heart function. Among men, consuming more than two drinks per day or 14 per week (considered heavy drinking) was also linked to damaging heart changes.” The researchers acknowledge that small amounts of alcohol may still help the heart, but say not enough is known about how much that amount is to avoid all harm. “In spite of potential benefits associated with low alcohol intake, the findings highlight possible hazards to the heart with increased amounts of alcohol consumption in the elderly, particularly among women. This reinforces recommendations that those who drink should not overindulge and that those who don’t currently drink shouldn’t start just for health reasons.” (CBS)

Smoking may be tied to higher risk of suicide. Smoking is bad for you in all sorts of ways, but a new analysis of health data of smokers and former smokers has added suicide to that list. “In February, a report examined more than 100,000 deaths among smokers and former smokers. The analysis concluded that the 21 diseases officially tied to smoking accounted for only 83% of the observed deaths. Three other researchers tracked down the supplementary data and looked further into smoking and suicide risk to see if it might account for some of the missing deaths. They found that women who smoked were 4.4 times more likely to kill themselves compared to never-smokers. Among men, smokers were 3.2 times more likely to commit suicide than men with no history of smoking. In fact, only one life-ending illness related to smoking – ischemic disorders of the intestines – had a higher risk ratio for both men and women than suicide.” The researchers think the increase in suicide may come from the ways nicotine affects how your brain functions. They say that an increasing number of studies are linking nicotine to brain changes related to suicide and depression. (LA Times)