9 Heart Health Myths Debunked
Knowing the facts when it comes to heart health could potentially save your life one day. Popular views are always circulating about the right way to treat your heart, but is there any truth behind them?
We’ve put together a list of the most common myths about heart health and the truth behind each:
1. Heart disease only affects older people
Much of how we treat our health today predicts how our hearts will age as we get older. Following a healthy diet, not smoking, getting regular cardiovascular exercise, and managing stress can all contribute to the protection of your heart.1 A healthy, functioning heart is the answer to longevity and quality of life, so a proactive approach at a young age is important.
2. Women don’t need to worry about heart disease
Cardiovascular disease, or CVD, is the number one killer in America. Many people believe that men make up the majority of this group, but the death rate is about evenly split between the two genders.2 This is why it’s so important for both men and women to take care of their hearts.
3. No one in my family has heart disease, so I should be fine
Many factors besides genetics can alter the health of your heart. For instance, certain lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking, and eating a high-fat, high-sugar diet can negatively affect the health of your heart. So it’s important to have regular check-ups for high levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, regardless of your family history.
4. I would be able to tell if I had high blood pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension is known as the ‘silent killer’ because it can go undetected for years.3 It takes time for plaque to build up along your artery walls, and as it does, your blood pressure will also gradually increase. With a simple blood pressure test, you can catch hypertension in the early stages before it causes any lasting damage.
5. As long as I manage my diabetes, I don’t need to worry about heart disease
Healthy management of your diabetes is always a good idea and will go a long way to keep your ticker in tip-top shape. Diabetes and CVD share common risk factors like high blood pressure, smoking, leading a sedentary lifestyle, and carrying too much bodyweight. This places those with diabetes at a higher risk of developing heart disease.4 So make sure to eat well, get plenty of exercise, and keep your waistline in check. Proactive measures today will serve you well later.
6. I’ve had a heart attack so I can’t exercisee
Avoiding exercise after a heart attack is a common myth believed by many. But the truth is, most people are able to return to normal activities within 4-6 weeks. Your healthcare professional can help guide you towards a gentle exercise program to help strengthen your heart and lower your risk for future episodes.5
7. Everyone in my family has heart disease, so there’s nothing I can do to prevent it
The exact opposite is true, in fact. Many studies have revealed that even the smallest lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on the health of your heart.6 The trick is to follow a heart healthy lifestyle and know the facts. It’s never too late or too hopeless to get your heart in good working order.
8. I avoid dietary cholesterol, so I’m not at risk for heart disease
The cholesterol we get from food does not have as large of an impact on blood cholesterol as we once thought. Other factors such as stress, obesity, and unhealthy lifestyle habits like sitting for long periods of time can contribute to high levels of cholesterol.7 Some medications and diseases like diabetes can also raise cholesterol levels. It’s always good advice to check with your doctor to make sure your diet is healthy and good for your heart.
9. I don’t need to get my cholesterol levels checked until I’m older
The American Heart Association advises that healthy adults aged 20 years or older get their cholesterol checked every four to six years. At the same time, your doctor will check for other heart health risk factors to ensure you’re in good health.
Knowing the facts about heart health and dispelling common myths is the smartest thing you can do to remain proactive. We all depend on a healthy, functioning heart for a high quality of life, so treat it well and make sure you schedule those regular check-ups with your doctor.
- World Health Organization, 2007; ISBN: 978 92 4 154717 8
- American Heart Association, Circulation; January 31, 2018. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000558
- American Heart Association, November 30, 2017; High Blood Pressure
- NIH: Diabetes, February 2017; Heart Disease and Stroke
- Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Jul 6. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001800.pub2
- N Engl J Med 2016; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1605086
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: High Blood Cholesterol
- Circulation. 2003;108:2619–2623 - https://doi.org/10.1161/01.CIR.0000097116.29625.7C
- Blog Contributor