Hi! I’m Dani Blum, a reporter on the Well desk, filling in for Jancee Dunn today. I cover breaking health news and the wellness trends that sometimes take over the internet.
Whenever a friend has asked me about work this year, I’ve used one word: “Chaos.” That’s not a bad thing: I love the jolt of adrenaline that comes from tackling a news story, whether it’s about a new warning on artificial sugar or millions of people losing insurance coverage as Medicaid unwinds. And I love helping readers figure out what’s happening and why it matters. Wait, which seed is all over TikTok now? Why did so many people start drinking raw milk? Why can’t I find eggs anywhere?
As we — somehow — slide into 2024, I took a look back at the stories that captivated readers in 2023, and what they can tell us about our health in the year ahead.
The Ozempic era is just getting started …
This year, it felt like there was nonstop news about Ozempic and similar drugs that can lead to dramatic weight loss. As more of these medications hit the market, more patients started pressing for the drugs, and more doctors started embracing them. Two trends particularly fascinated me this year: Mental health professionals began offering the drugs to counteract weight gain from psychiatric medications, and some people in menopause who were struggling to lose weight turned to them.
The interest in these drugs also moved beyond treating diabetes and weight loss — researchers reported that one of the drugs, Wegovy, could cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes for some people. The expanding footprint of these medications might just be one of the biggest story lines in 2024.
… and the Covid era hasn’t really ended.
Officially, the Covid public health emergency ended this year, a significant milestone as the pandemic settles into a new phase. That transition made it harder for many people to get Covid tests and newly updated vaccines, even as the virus remained a major presence in our lives. New variants keep emerging, and many of us have found ourselves in what feels like an endless cycle of infection and recovery.
The health toll of climate change became clearer …
The best part of my job is chasing down answers to what feel like the most pressing questions of the day. As wildfire smoke drifted through New York this summer and the sky turned orange, I rooted through my coat pockets for an N95 mask and wondered, on my eerie commute to the office, just how bad breathing the smoky air was for my lungs. The health risks of climate change are rapidly rising, and more people seem to have started thinking about how the shifting weather will affect their health.
Perhaps the only upside, if you can call it that, is that next year, we may at least be slightly better prepared as we adjust to the new normal. The next storm that floods New York, or next heat wave that hits, I’ll know what precautions to take to stay as safe as possible.
… as did the harms of drinking.
You might not want to hear it — I don’t either — but the evidence has become painfully clear that alcohol is bad for you. New research this year found that deaths tied to drinking are rising among women faster than they are among men, with the gap between genders narrowing particularly for people 65 and older. And more evidence emerged that alcohol raises the risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer and colon cancer.
For the “sober curious” among us, Dry January offers a chance to think intentionally about drinking in the new year — and a mind-set to consider keeping throughout the year.
And what’s old became new again.
If there’s one reliable rule about the otherwise unruly world of wellness trends, it’s that while fads might fizzle, they never truly die.
This year, Zoomers brought back cottage cheese, long overshadowed by Greek yogurt, and raved about its health benefits. People sought out ashwagandha, an ancient herb, in an attempt to ease their anxiety. And Starbucks splashed olive oil into coffee, getting in on the popularity of a Mediterranean diet mainstay that people have also been swirling into yogurt, ice cream, really just about anything. Some people on TikTok, hoping it could clear their skin, drank olive oil straight from a shot glass.
What fads will take over in 2024? That’s anyone’s guess. My money’s on all things stress relief — it’s an election year in the United States, after all — so I’m watching out for supplements and products that claim they can calm our anxiety. If only it were that simple.
Have you made any New Year’s resolutions that have changed your life? Please share them with us and we may include them in an upcoming newsletter.
Lonely? There’s no shame in that.
My colleague Christina Caron has a lovely piece on the stigma that comes with loneliness, and strategies for enduring and even embracing being alone.
Read the article: There’s No Shame in Feeling Lonely
What to know about late-night eating
That before-bed snack might be harder for your body to handle; my colleague Alice Callahan explains why.
#Health #Lessons #Learned