Whoever said we would never understand the mysteries of the heart clearly didn’t work in healthcare. The truth is, our knowledge of how the heart functions—and malfunctions—is always growing. Yet outdated and potentially harmful beliefs about heart disease linger. Help us spread the word to bust these heart disease myths.
Myth 1: Exercising with heart disease is dangerous.
Though individuals with heart disease should consult their doctor about what kind of exercise to do, being sedentary is generally a bad idea. Inactivity can lead to blood clots in your legs and is bad for overall health and well-being. Regular moderate exercise like walking can improve blood flow and strengthen your heart—it’s a muscle after all!
Myth 2: It’s OK if blood pressure rises with age.
Aging causes artery walls to become stiffer, which may boost blood pressure. But that doesn’t mean older people should ignore elevated blood pressure. Rising blood pressure is a sign your heart is working harder to pump blood, which can lead to damaged arteries or heart failure. Talk to your doctor about how to manage blood pressure as you age.
Myth 3: I'm too young to worry about heart disease.
Actually, heart disease can develop at any age. Though age does raise the risk of heart prob¬lems, other factors can lead to the early onset of heart disease, including genetics, diabetes, hypertension and unhealthy lifestyles. Coronary artery disease, which occurs when fatty depos¬its build in the blood vessels and restrict blood flow, is the most common type of heart disease in younger people. Most at risk are smokers and those who are inactive or obese.
Myth 4: Since heart disease runs in my family, I'm doomed.
There’s no doubt that genetics puts you at a disadvantage. However, you can cut your risk. Ask your doctor to help you create a preventive action plan. Set small goals to begin breaking bad habits. Focus on reducing your biggest risks first—quit smoking, lose weight and control chronic conditions like blood pressure, high cho¬lesterol or diabetes.
Myth 5: If I stick to a low-fat diet, that will protect me from heart disease.
This seems like common sense since fatty deposits in blood vessels can trigger heart attacks. However, not all fats are bad for you. In fact, eating healthy fats in foods like salmon, nuts and olive oil may lower your risk of heart disease. Avoid foods that are high in trans fats (found mostly in processed foods) and limit saturated fats (found mostly in dairy and meat).
Myth 6: Heart disease won't affect me if I stay physically fit.
Unfortunately, even marathon runners and longtime yogis can fall victim to heart disease. Being physically fit can only do so much to counteract bad habits like eating a high-fat diet, drinking too much alcohol or smoking.
Myth 7: Heart disease is a man’s disease.
Wrong. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both sexes, though men typically develop heart troubles earlier. Regardless of your sex, know the symptoms of a heart attack
Know the Signs of a Heart Attack
- Pressure, aching or tightness in the center of the chest
- Pain or discomfort in the upper body that may spread to shoulders, neck and arms
Less Common Symptoms
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Back pain
- Sudden, unexplained fatigue