Top Health Stories of 2012: Rosie O’Donnell’s Heart Attack & A New Diabetes Drug

The Dr. Oz Show medical staff chose the top most innovative, interesting and influential health headlines of 2012. Each day until the new year, we’ll round up and revisit the major headlines that had a profound effect on science, medicine and your health over the last 12 months.

Headline #11 (Tie): Rosie O’Donnell’s Heart Attack Raises Awareness for Women

This August, news spread of Rosie O’Donnell’s heart attack and the emergency procedure that saved her life. Other celebrities and public figures have had heart attacks, including Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney, Larry King, and Mother Theresa. So, what makes O’Donnell’s heart attack so influential?Two reasons: First, Rosie’s heart attack serves as a direct wake-up call for middle-aged women, as many people still believe that heart disease is a “man’s disease.” While having her heart attack, she felt “an ache in [her] chest.” She thought it was just a strained or pulled muscle and went about her day. She soon felt clammy and very warm before she threw up. She mentioned it was very easy to ignore these symptoms in order to avoid calling an ambulance and making a “big deal out of nothing.” However, these symptoms are characteristic of heart attacks in women. Once she realized her symptoms were more serious than she had previously thought, she took an aspirin,which she feels is one of the decisions that saved her life.

Second, her heart attack brings to light how women experience heart attacks differently than men. Heart attacks experienced by women produce much more subtle symptoms than what men experience and they are easier to ignore, which is one of the reasons why heart disease is the number-one killer of American women. To think that a 99% blockage of “the widowmaker,” a major cardiac artery, would cause vague, easily-ignorable symptoms is bone-chilling.

Watch Rosie talk about near-fatal heart attack on The Dr. Oz Show.

Headline #11 (Tie): A New Diabetes Drug Is Developed

The American Diabetes Association reports that 8.3% of Americans have diabetes – 25.8 million people. That number is expected to increase, especially with our nation’s growing obesity problem. It is now the top reason for vision impairment in younger adults. While we already have drugs to fight the potentially dangerous disease, they sometimes fail, and new and innovative treatments are needed for the patients who fall through the cracks.

A new type of drug, a SGLT2 inhibitor, works by encouraging the kidneys to eliminate extra blood sugar from the blood. The drug has been in development for years, and now is close to entering the market.

Johnson & Johnson recently submitted the first developed SGLT2 inhibitor, canagliflozin, for approval in the US by the FDA. The approval process lasts for about 10 months, and the drug may be approved for use in the US by March 2013.

Read More of 2012’s Top Health Stories: