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Diet Soda And Your Risk For Heart Attack Or Stroke

It tastes sweet. It’s pleasurably fizzy. And free of calories. What’s more, the FDA says NutraSweet (aspartame) is safe. So what’s not to like about diet soft drinks?

A bunch. The ongoing debate about the healthiness of diet soft drinks reminds me of the old adage, “If something sounds to be true, it probably is.”

Artificially-sweetened “diet” drinks get touted as healthy alternatives to sugary drinks because they contain no calories or carbohydrates. On paper it seems plausible to think they are inert, no more dangerous than water. The Coca-Cola Company sublimely strengthens this assertion by putting a big red heart on Diet Coke cans.

But diet-cola news (Los Angeles Times) presented at the International Stroke Conference 2011 suggests otherwise. This widely-publicized observational study of 2,500 older patients (average age=69) from New York showed that drinking diet soda on a daily basis increased the risk of having a heart attack or stroke by 61 percent. The abstract — not a peer-reviewed study — stated that this association persisted after controlling for other pertinent variables.

Sure, this is only a look back at 559 patients who had a vascular event. The study asserts only an association, not that diet colas cause heart attacks and strokes. That’s a big difference.

That said, however, I don’t view these results as trivial either. This trial builds on the results of prior studies of diet drinks which strongly suggest that despite their lack of calories, diet drinks don’t prevent obesity. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Is February Heart-Marketing Month?

Heart disease and February: What relationship could be more cozy? From the scary risks of shoveling snow (yep, you could die, so be sure to lift a little at a time), Mercedes-sponsored red dress parades and government-sponsored National Wear Red Day®, to tips for identifying heart attacks in women (men, you need a different month I guess), February has all the important stories to improve your awareness. Such a polite term “awareness.”

But I wonder, now that the Internet is upon us and people are seeing their insurance rates and co-pays skyrocket, if maybe we’re shooting ourselves in the foot with all this heart-month marketing hype. People are sick and tired of testing “just to be sure.” It’s starting to directly cost them a fortune, and people are frustrated at having to pay a fortune for healthcare, let alone heart care.

I know, I know — I should be at the forefront of working with patients to stomp out heart disease. And goodness, people DO need to be attuned to diet, exercise, and weight loss. But the reality is, if we’re giving you the 10 latest tips on how to detect a heart attack, we’re probably a bit too late.

That’s the problem with all these press releases: While there’s a need to raise “awareness” of heart health, there’s also a very real need for people to take us — heart disease professionals — seriously to help cut costs in healthcare here. The last thing our healthcare system needs is more frivolous testing. Yet this is exactly what all this marketing does for our healthcare system — and it helps those with the largest PR budgets most of all. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

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