So many heart disease myths floating around…It’s enough to give a Cardiologist a migraine.
I’m going to tell you some things about how genetics affect you, what cholesterol has to do with anything, the truth about eating fats, and a few things about surgery…
Be brave, read on, it’s worth your time.
We’re losing a lot of you every year to heart disease in the U.S. More than from every single type of cancer there is.
The majority of these deaths are due to heart attacks in people with diagnosed or undiagnosed Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). (Click here to learn about CAD vs “heart disease”).
The good news is that as more people follow healthier lifestyles and take medications as they’re directed, deaths from CAD are declining. Yay You!
Unfortunately, the heart disease myths about how to prevent it keep hanging around… Here are 10 of the most common (untrue) stories:
Myth 1: You’ll only get heart disease if it runs in your family.
While heredity sometimes plays a role:
These poor choices can:
- Raise the level of cholesterol and other harmful fats in your blood
- Increase your blood pressure
- Cause you to develop metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes, all of which raise the risk of heart disease.
If you are influenced by genetics to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, a heart-healthy lifestyle can extend and save your life; with the added benefit of helping you to delay or completely avoid having a heart attack.
Myth 2: Having enough good cholesterol can offset bad cholesterol.
Recent studies have shown that doesn’t work…
These days, instead of looking at total cholesterol, which includes both your “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, most doctors are now focusing on LDL cholesterol.
- Although a high HDL level is certainly good, what it means is that your body may still be depositing cholesterol in your arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Myth 3: You can lower high LDL cholesterol levels just by changing your diet.
Wrong: If your LDL level is very high, you will need a cholesterol-lowering drug, such as a statin to bring it down.
- That’s because your liver makes about 75 % of the cholesterol in your body, and diet is only responsible for 25%. Read about Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease here.
A heart-healthy diet may lower your LDL somewhat, but the addition of cholesterol-lowering medication is very important, especially if your LDL cholesterol is very high and you have a history of Coronary Artery Disease.
- High blood pressure (hypertension) is called “the silent killer” for a reason.
Hypertension generally produces no symptoms until it causes a heart attack or stroke.
Myth 5: Fats are bad for your heart.
There are four different kinds of fats found in our foods, and not all of them are bad.
Artificially made trans-fats also called “partially hydrogenated oils” are the worst.
- Trans fats are found in many (most) baked goods and processed foods.
They raise bad LDL cholesterol levels. So do saturated fats, which come from animal products like red meat and butter.
- The good news is that replacing unhealthy saturated fats with healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may actually lower your LDL levels.”
Myth 6: Some “superfoods” will prevent heart disease.
Nope. There are no specific foods that will prevent heart disease, but there are certain diets that can.
Foods like blueberries, pomegranates, walnuts, and fish, while excellent for heart health, won’t prevent you from developing heart disease. This is one of the most difficult heart disease myths to dispel.
However, the Mediterranean Diet, which features whole grains, legumes, fish, vegetables, fruit and monounsaturated fats like olive oil, has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease.
No, not really…To lower your risk of death from coronary artery disease and cancer, you’ll need five or six sessions of moderate to vigorous activity per week.
➡ You do not have to be a diehard exerciser or even a weekend warrior to benefit from increased activity, but you do have to get off the sofa and move.
➡ Your heart will benefit from any activity you do, and the more you do, the more you’ll benefit.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk around a shopping mall, vacuum your house or rake the leaves.
Aim for 30 minutes of activity a day—divided into 10- to 15-minute segments— and your heart will thank you.
Myth 8: Bypass surgery and stenting will fix coronary artery disease.
When coronary artery disease blocks the heart’s arteries, surgeons can use other arteries to bypass trouble spots (called coronary artery bypass grafting, or CABG) and restore circulation. Also, Cardiologists can use stents to prop open blocked arteries.
However, while bypass surgery and stenting can help prevent a first or second heart attack and make you feel better, they won’t cure your coronary artery disease.” The disease process that caused the blockages first goes on.
Myth 9. Stenting is safer than bypass surgery.
➡ Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting is major surgery. But, when it’s scheduled to prevent a heart attack and is performed by an experienced surgeon, the operative risk is less than 1 percent.
➡ Stenting, which is less invasive than bypass surgery and allows patients to recover faster, is just as safe.
Most of the time, stents do not protect from a heart attack, they only relieve the symptoms that are the result of heart artery narrowing.
There are, of course, exceptions. Stenting during a heart attack can be a life-saving intervention.
Myth 10: Women don’t need to worry about heart disease.
Oh boy…It is a fact that more women die from heart disease every year than from breast cancer.
This one goes in the bin marked heart disease myths for sure.
➡ Men tend to develop coronary artery disease and have heart attacks at younger ages than women. But after menopause, the risk for heart attack levels out and is the same for women and men.
One of the primary reasons women aren’t always diagnosed with heart disease is that many use their Ob/Gyn for primary care and never get a heart examination.
There’s a reason for specialties in medicine, take advantage of physicians who specialize in your specific disorder.
➡ Women should have a complete head-to-toe checkup with baseline heart exams in early adulthood.
➡ It is important to speak to your physician about testing in the future, especially if you have a history of heart disease in your family.
This allows for risk factors to be identified and discussed promptly before they impact the heart.