There's a whole universe of information online to sift through; however, you're bound to come across some misinformation. We debunk some of the more common myths about heart disease and other heart-related topics while giving general rules of thumb for each scenario.
I'm not at risk for heart disease
There are many ways you're put at risk for heart disease. The first is by having a family history, although you cannot control what you inherit. The characteristics that may affect your risk include your age, race, and biological sex. These genetic factors will affect your blood pressure and possibly heighten your risk for heart disease.
Remember, heart disease treats each gender's body differently. We've mentioned before that heart disease is the number one killer of both women and men; the disease simply affects them in different ways. People will not only experience different symptoms, but they will also develop the disease in different periods of their life. For instance, women usually develop heart disease ten years later than men. Regardless of your gender, speaking with a doctor about their recommendation ensures you can begin treating yourself sooner.
Unhealthy habits only increase your likelihood of developing this disease. What's shocking is about 47% of all Americans have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or smoking habits—and these are three key risk factors of heart disease. If heart disease doesn't run in your family, you can potentially reverse it. Creating a plan to get active and eat better goes a long way. In fact, you might be able to dramatically reduce your risk for disease!
Vitamins, supplements, and medications will protect me from disease
Vitamins C and E have been said to lower your heart disease risk, but there isn't a scientific conclusion that proves these vitamins treat or prevent disease. Supplements like fish oil may do a body good, but they aren't a free pass to eat anything, even if it's not necessarily great for you. With the mentality of eating what you want, it's easy to consume too many calories or poor ingredients, which will override the positive effects from vitamins. The best thing you can do is eat the foods that will give you the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Then, take supplements as recommended by your doctor.
The same applies to medication, too. Aspirin keeps the blood thin and prevents clumps from forming; however, it may interfere with clotting and increase your risk for excessive bleeding. Always consult your doctor before beginning aspirin therapy. I If you've been given a specific heart medication by a doctor, we urge you to take it as prescribed. Even if you're feeling fine, you should take it to prevent any nasty side effects from medicine withdrawals.
Alcohol, especially red wine, is good for the heart
While studies have shown red wine contains helpful antioxidants, increasing your alcohol consumption can hurt your blood pressure—as well as your waistline. It's not a nutritional supplement, so an entire bottle isn't going to prevent heart disease and could cause other problems. The American Heart Association recommends drinking alcohol in moderation, which is one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men under the age of 65. Drinking alcohol can raise the level of some bad fats in the blood, but drinking a glass of wine may be useful in increasing protective cholesterol. In other words, more research is needed, so beware of the health risks and drink in moderation.
Fats and cholesterol aren't good for you
The truth is, not all fats are bad. There are bad fats, such as trans-fat and hydrogenated fat, but there are also healthy fats. While many believe saturated fats are bad, there isn't a clear link between saturated fats and heart disease. Saturated fats may raise bad cholesterol, but they can also raise good cholesterol.
Let's take eggs, for example. Eggs contain cholesterol, but if anything, they raise good cholesterol. They're actually a great source of nutrition because they offer protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and many other micronutrients. If you want to reap the benefits, it's perfectly safe to eat up to two eggs a day.
It's also worth noting that foods labeled "low fat" will most likely have more sugar. This is because these foods undergo processing to resemble the traditional version. If health is your priority—and it should be—eating unprocessed foods that are in their natural state is the way to go.
If you're still worried about the fat and cholesterol debates, you can always reduce your saturated fat intake. Additionally, you can replace these fats with unsaturated fats (omega-3s). A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains without excess sugar may help drop your heart disease risk. We suggest the Mediterranean diet because it emphasizes extra-virgin olive oil, salmon, and other heart-healthy foods.
You're too young to worry about heart disease or blood pressure
This is by far one of the most common myths about heart disease. This is because, oftentimes, people are diagnosed after 45. What many people don't realize is that heart disease can affect anyone, no matter their age.
There are many heart disease symptoms that people won't recognize. Plaque can begin building up when you're a teenager or even a child, and it will eventually lead to clogged arteries later in life.
People are also under the impression that it's normal for their blood pressure to continue to rise with age. Ultimately, how you live now will affect your risk in the future. Quit smoking, eat whole foods, exercise, and live your healthiest life today.
A cardiologist and/or surgery will cure my heart disease
Unfortunately, cardiologists aren't miracle workers; there's only so much they can do. Cardiologists help heart disease victims live their lives to the fullest. Additionally, they can counsel people in heart disease prevention.
While heart surgery can fix an issue, it doesn't fix the root of the issue at hand. To learn more about your risk for disease and how you can treat it, nine out of ten cardiovascular doctors recommend preventive health screenings.
We encourage you to take these heart health myths to heart. Making healthy changes is important to living a long life, and a change that we highly recommend is receiving regular preventive health screenings.At Lifeline, we never think it's too early—it's best to start prevention now. To ensure that you're aware of your health risks before they become problems, schedule a screening in your area today.