Diet Drinks May Increase Heart Disease Risk

Drinking two or more diet drinks a day may increase the risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke, in otherwise healthy postmenopausal women, according to a new UI study. In addition to lead investigator Ankur Vyas, a fellow in cardiovascular disease at UI Hospitals and Clinics, the study team included Linda Rubenstein, Jennifer Robinson, Linda Snetselaar, and Robert Wallace from the UI College of Public Health, along with other colleagues.

The study, which analyzed diet drink intake and cardiovascular health in almost 60,000 women participating in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, found that compared to women who never or only rarely consume diet drinks, those who consume two or more a day are 30 percent more likely to have a cardiovascular event and 50 percent more likely to die from related disease. Vyas says the association between diet drinks and cardiovascular problems raises more questions than it answers, and should stimulate further research.

Robinson Contributes to New Cholesterol Guidelines

Remember when cholesterol was defined by a simple number? No more. Cholesterol is now defined as a combination of who you are and your lifestyle. As a result, more Americans could be taking medication to lower it, says Jennifer Robinson, professor of epidemiology and internal medicine.

Robinson served on the expert national panel that reviewed the previous guidelines and came up with the new ones. She notes that the old guidelines focused mainly on lowering patients’ bad LDL cholesterol to a certain number. The new guidelines, recently announced by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, focus on patients’ risks of heart attack and stroke. The new guidelines target four high-risk groups:

  • People who have had heart attacks, other heart disease, strokes, or artery blockages;
  • People with genetically high cholesterol levels;
  • People with diabetes; and
  • People at high risk for heart disease and stroke.

For these high-risk groups, doctors are advising statins—medications that block the liver from making too much cholesterol. Robinson estimates that about 32 million Americans fit into one of these four groups, but only half of those with heart disease and diabetes are currently taking statins.

Iowa study shows drug could help lower type of cholesterol

A new study led by Jennifer Robinson, director of the Prevention Intervention Center and UI professor of epidemiology and internal medicine, reports a drug may help lower a particular type of cholesterol. The researchers say the drug, evolocumab, boosts statins, which help lower cholesterol. Results appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association.