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8 Common Myths About Heart Disease — and the Real Facts

Millions of people have heart disease. It is the number one cause of mortality in the U.S., and more Americans will die of heart disease this year than cancer, obesity or diabetes.

Despite its prevalence, so many myths still surround heart disease, its causes, symptoms and treatment. Here are 8 myths about heart disease—and the truth about each of them.

Myth: If I already have heart disease, I shouldn’t exercise.

Fact: Exercise has countless health benefits, one of which is strengthening your heart and increasing blood flow throughout the body.

If you have heart disease, talk to your doctor about the safest exercises you can do to maintain your heart health. Walking might be the best option, because it is low-impact but still lowers your risk for high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes, some of the main risk factors for heart disease.

Myth: Most older people have high blood pressure, so it shouldn’t be a huge concern.

Fact: Completely false. Yes, high blood pressure does rise with age. However, it is still a concern because of its link to the development of heart disease. Over time, high blood pressure damages your arteries and disrupts the normal function of the circulatory system, forcing the heart to work harder to do its job. This can lead to long-term damage that increases your risk for a stroke or heart attack.

Myth: Women don’t have to worry about heart disease.

Fact: As we mentioned before on this blog, heart disease isn’t just a man’ disease. It is the number one cause of mortality for women in the U.S., but only 57 percent of them think it’s a huge health threat. Heart disease affects 43 million women every year, and more women than men die of the disease every year, which means women need to practice healthy habits just as much as men do.

Myth: I have a family history of heart disease, so I’m destined to have it, too.

Fact: Genetic factors can increase your risk for heart disease, but that doesn’t mean you’re predestined to experience it. However, it does mean that prevention is more critical. 

If you have a family history of heart disease, eating a balanced diet, not smoking, getting regular exercise and regularly checking your blood pressure and cholesterol are all important preventative measures you must take to reduce your risk.

Myth: I’m having chest pain, it must be a heart attack.

Fact: This is probably one of the most common myths about heart disease. Yes, chest pain is a symptom of heart attacks, but everyone who has a heart attack experiences different symptoms, such as excessive sweating, pain in both arms, the neck or jaw, or even feelings of lightheadedness and difficulty sleeping. You may experience pain in other body parts because the heart transmits it to these areas, since it doesn’t have as many pain receptors itself. Even if you don’t experience chest pain, you should see a doctor right away if you have many of these other symptoms.

Myth: A low-fat diet is the best way to reduce your heart disease risk.

Fact: Eating healthy improves heart function. However, avoiding red meat, cheese and other foods high in saturated fat isn’t as important as eating a balanced diet.

You need to consume more fruits, vegetables and lean proteins to reduce your heart disease risk. Avoidance helps, but being proactive is even better. 

Myth: I don’t need to worry about my salt intake.

Fact: Most people’s daily salt intake is five times higher than what they actually need. Processed, canned and restaurant foods typically contain high levels of sodium, which raises your blood pressure and thereby increases your heart disease risk.

Myth: I’m young. I don’t need to worry about heart disease.

Fact: Heart disease is more common among older adults, but how you treat your heart now could have long-term consequences for how it functions later. If you smoke, are overweight or have diabetes, this can increase your risk for heart disease—no matter what age you are. Start practicing health habits today to maintain your heart health for the future. 

Heart disease affects too many Americans. It’s a disease that largely can be prevented with consistent healthy habits. Your heart is too important to jeopardize, so hopefully this information empowers you to do everything you can to improve your heart health today.