8 Heart Disease Myths Busted
With any highly discussed topic like heart disease, there are always misconceptions or outright falsehoods that tend to spread. After enough time has passed, many people begin accepting these myths as truth — putting themselves at risk in the event they develop heart disease. Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States, and it can affect anyone.
By putting the most common heart disease myths to bed, you can be better prepared to detect and get treatment for heart disease — or notice it in someone else — before a heart attack or other serious health event occurs.
Myth 1: Heart Disease Only Affects Older People
It may be true that the risk of heart disease increases as people age, but this does not mean that heart disease cannot affect younger people. In fact higher obesity rates and unconventional diets in young people mean that we’re seeing heart disease appear earlier than ever before. It is also possible for genetic heart defects to lead to disease early in life — during a time when many people would overlook it because they’re “too young to have heart problems.”
Know your body, and trust your instincts when something feels wrong. Just because you might be younger than the average age heart disease strikes does not mean it’s too early to have routine checkups to ensure your heart is in good health.
Myth 2: Men Are at Greater Risk Than Women
We’re not sure how this myth got started, but we can tell you that it’s absolutely not true. In fact, heart disease kills more women than men each year. While estrogen gives women some protection, after menopause, the risk tends to be fairly even between the sexes. If you are a woman, do not assume that you won’t have heart issues because you’re pre-menopause. Getting routine health checkups is the best plan of action for anyone — man or woman.
Myth 3: Heart Disease Is Easy to Self-Detect
Heart disease rarely comes with noticeable symptoms. High blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and other key indicators are not things you can typically feel, so many people actually have no idea when their symptoms of heart disease actually start without a doctor’s checkup. This is why it’s important to have routine health visits with your primary care provider to catch any budding signs of disease.
Myth 4: Chest Pain Is the Only Sign of a Heart Attack
Yes, chest pain is the most noticeable and common sign that you’re having a heart attack. This doesn’t mean that it’s the only one — or that you can’t be having a heart attack if you don’t have chest pain. In fact, many women have heart attacks without having chest pain at all. For men, heart attacks can be sudden with subtle symptoms leading up to the actual attack. Here are some symptoms to watch for:
● Shortness of breath
● Nausea and/or vomiting
● Back pain
● Jaw pain
● Dizziness or fainting
● Upper abdomen pain
● Extreme fatigue
Myth 5: My Heart Medication Lets Me Eat What I Want
Medication is not a “get out of lifestyle changes free” card. It’s useful for helping you control some aspect of your disease, but it can only do so much if you continue to engage in behaviors that work against it. Eating foods that are high in trans or saturated fats can negate the good effects your medication gives you.
Myth 6: Exercising After a Heart Attack Is Risky
People may think that their heart is in a fragile state after a heart attack, and this causes them to avoid exercise or exertion. While your heart does need time to recover, it’s important to remember that lack of exercise is one of the main causes of heart disease. In fact, exercise is a necessary component to recovery. If you’ve experienced a heart attack, talk to your doctor about how to safely return to activity and what exercises can improve your heart health.
Myth 7: “I’m Young, So I Don’t Need to Check My Cholesterol.”
Starting at 20 years old, the American Heart Association recommends that every person should get their cholesterol checked every five years. If your family has a history of heart disease, it’s probably a good idea to start having a cholesterol test even earlier. Young children and adolescents with a family history of acute heart disease can have high cholesterol levels early, putting them at increased risk for developing heart disease as adults.
Myth 8: “Heart Disease Pain Happens Near the Heart.”
This is 100% false. In fact, several serious symptoms of heart failure or cardiovascular disease appear in the extremities. For example, leg pain in the muscles could be an early sign of peripheral artery disease (PAD). Plaque buildup blocks blood flow in the legs and causes damage and pain to the surrounding muscle tissue.
Take the Next Step to Protect Your Heart
If you are unsure of your heart health, take our online assessment today. It’s a simple questionnaire that uses your answers to determine whether you may be at risk.