Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men, women, and most ethnic groups in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The issue has become so prevalent that heart disease accounted for one in every five deaths in 2020. As a leading cause of death in the United States, myths surrounding heart disease are prevalent and often misunderstood. Below are five common myths surrounding the disease.
MYTH 1: If you are diagnosed with heart disease, you should take it easy.
FALSE. Harvard Medical School advises that a sedentary lifestyle is not the answer to dealing with heart disease. Cardiologist Richard Lee, M.D., co-editor in chief of the Harvard Heart Letter, explains that exercise improves blood flow and strengthens the heart muscle. When exploring heart-healthy exercise routines, it’s important to note that you should perform a level of activity you are comfortable with. Devising a workout routine should be fun, not something to dread or fear.
MYTH 2: Higher blood pressure as you age is perfectly average.
PARTIALLY FALSE. As we age, artery walls stiffen, forcing the heart to work harder to move blood through our bodies. While this change is natural, it should not be ignored. High blood pressure places you at increased risk for a heart attack, and thus should be monitored by your doctor.
The National Institute on Aging recommends 2.5 hours per week of moderate physical activity, cutting back on salt, reduced intake of alcohol, a night of good sleep, and not smoking to help counter high blood pressure.
If you are experiencing increased blood pressure, speak with your doctor.
MYTH 3: Taking vitamins and supplements reduces your risk for heart disease.
FALSE. Harvard Medical School explains that while its commonly believed that vitamins and supplements can reduce heart disease, clinical trials fail to provide enough data to be conclusive.
“For reasons not yet understood, the body absorbs and utilizes vitamins and minerals best when absorbed through foods,” the site states. “To ensure you get the vitamins and minerals you need, skip store-bought supplements and eat various nutritious foods of every color of the rainbow.”
MYTH 4: Quitting smoking drastically reduces your heart disease
TRUE. The effects of smoking take a significant toll on the heart itself, and making a move to quit tobacco can provide substantial benefits in reducing your risk of future complications. No matter how long you’ve been smoking, quitting instantly improves your overall well-being.
Harvard Medical School adds that quitting can immediately improve your health no matter how long you’ve been smoking. They add that after quitting smoking, your risk of suffering a heart attack will decrease by nearly 50%.
MYTH 5: Having a family history of heart disease increases your risk.
TRUE. If someone in your immediate family suffers from heart disease, you, too, are at an increased risk. However, that doesn’t mean you are all but sure to fight the battle yourself at some point in your lifetime. Discuss your risk factors, including genetic history, lifestyle, diet, and more, with your doctor. You can then form a plan to improve your overall well-being and help counter these factors and reduce your risk of heart disease.
SCA Health encourages all patients to speak with their doctor regarding general heart health and the risks associated with heart disease.
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