Relying on false assumptions can be dangerous to your heart. Cardiovascular disease kills more Americans each year than any other disease. But you can boost your heart smarts by separating fact from fiction. Let’s set the record straight on some common myths.
Myth 1: I’m too young to worry about heart disease.
Fact: The lifestyle choices you make today will affect your risk for cardiovascular diseases later in life. As early as childhood and adolescence, plaque can start accumulating in the arteries and later lead to clogged arteries. One in three Americans has cardiovascular disease, but not all of them are in their older years. Even young and middle-aged people can develop heart problems – especially now that obesity, type 2 diabetes and other risk factors are becoming more common at a younger age.
Myth 2: Heart disease doesn’t affect people who are fit.
Fact: Even if you’re a yoga-loving, marathon-running workout fiend, your risk for heart disease isn’t completely eliminated. Factors like cholesterol, eating habits and smoking can counterbalance your other healthy habits. You can be thin and have high cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends you start getting your cholesterol checked at age 20, or earlier, if your family has a history of heart disease. And while you’re at it, be sure to keep an eye on your blood pressure at your next check-up.
Myth 3: Heart disease runs in my family, so there’s nothing I can do about it.
Fact: Although those with a family history of heart disease are at higher risk, there’s plenty you can do to dramatically reduce it. Eating a plant-based diet, enjoying an active lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight can greatly reduce your risk for developing heart disease. Work with your doctor to create an action plan to keep your heart healthy.
Myth 4: I would know if I had high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Fact: Hypertension (high blood pressure) is known as the “silent killer”. This is due to the fact that there are no obvious symptoms. The only real way to know if your blood pressure or cholesterol is outside a healthy range is to get tested.
Myth 5: Heart disease is really a man’s disease.
Fact: Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women over age 65, just as it's the leading killer of men. Whether you are a man or a woman, ask your doctor to conduct a baseline heart examination that includes checking your cholesterol and blood pressure. Then follow your doctor's recommendations.
This article first appeared in the February 2020 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.