- A small study found that the popular weight loss drug semaglutide may help lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
- After one year, study participants showed improvements in multiple cardiovascular risk factors, including blood pressure, total cholesterol, and triglycerides.
- Some experts suggest that by treating obesity, Ozempic appears to decrease risk factors that can lead to heart disease.
New research has found that the popular weight loss drug semaglutide, sold under the brand names Wegovy and Ozempic, may help lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, too.
The findings, presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity in Dublin, Ireland, found that multiple cardiovascular risk factors, including blood pressure, total cholesterol, and triglycerides, decreased after a year of taking semaglutide.
Cardiologists believe that the anti-obesity drug boosts heart health by improving these risk factors, which are proven to contribute to heart disease.
Though additional research is needed to better understand the effects of semaglutide, the findings suggest that people at risk for heart disease may potentially benefit from taking semaglutide.
“In this small retrospective study amongst individuals who were overweight or obese, it appears that use of a specific agent targeting overall weight loss improved cardiovascular risk as measured by one well-utilized risk calculator,” Ajaykumar D. Rao, MD, MMSc, FACP, Chief of the Section of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism and Associate Professor of Medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, who was not part of the original study, told Healthline.
Semaglutide may improve multiple cardiovascular risk factors
To understand the effect semaglutide has on cardiovascular disease in people who are overweight or have obesity, the researchers evaluated the health data of 93 patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 kg/m2 or higher who had no history of cardiovascular disease.
Using their demographic, clinical, and lipid panel data, they calculated each patient’s 10-year atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (10-year ASCVD) risk before starting semaglutide and then after one year of taking semaglutide.
The 10-year ASCVD risk estimator is a tool created by the American College of Cardiology that predicts a person’s 10-year risk of developing atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
It’s used to guide potential treatment plans in people at risk for heart disease.
The team found that the 10-year ASCVD dropped by 1.38 percent, from 7.64 percent before taking semaglutide to 6.26 percent after 12 months of taking the anti-obesity drug.
The researchers also measured multiple cardiovascular risk factors, including total body weight loss percentage, change in blood pressure, HbA1c (a measure of blood sugar control), fasting glucose, lipid panel, blood pressure medications, and use of aspirin and statin before the patients began taking semaglutide and at and their last follow-up visit.
After a year of taking semaglutide, the participants’ blood pressure dropped significantly — on average, by 9.3/4.9 mmHg — as did their total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting glucose, and HbA1c.
Patients also lost an average of 10.9 percent of their body weight.
There were some limitations of the report.
Supreeti Behuria, MD, a cardiologist at Staten Island University Hospital, says the study included a small sample size of fewer than 100 people and it had a short follow-up time of less than one year. Behuria was not involved in the research.
“Almost 91 percent of patients were white, so this study did not represent our diverse patient population and I wonder at its applicability in the broader context,” Behuria said.
While the report suggests Ozempic may have positive effects on cardiovascular health, more research with larger sample sizes and longer follow-up periods is needed to better understand the short and long-term impacts.
By treating obesity, Semaglutide may improve heart health
Mir Ali, MD, bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, says there are multiple mechanisms by which obesity increases the risk of cardiovascular disease — primarily, that obesity increases atherosclerotic plaque buildup in arteries, putting people at risk for myocardial infarction. Ali was also not part of the original research.
The increase in body fat in obesity contributes to other risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure, diabetes, and obstructive sleep apnea, says Behuria.
“In my opinion, it is not the medication itself that is lowering heart disease risk, but the weight loss as a result of taking it,” Ali said.
Obesity is one of the most targetable and modifiable risk factors for obesity, according to Rao.
“Semaglutide is [a] medication that helps reduce body weight and thus treats obesity. By treating obesity, helps decrease cardiovascular risk factors which further lower the risk of cardiovascular disease,” Behuria said.
The bottom line:
New research has found that the popular weight loss drug semaglutide may help lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, too.
Multiple cardiovascular risk factors, including blood pressure, total cholesterol, and triglycerides, improved after a year of taking semaglutide.
By treating obesity, semaglutide appears to decrease risk factors that can lead to heart disease.