February has long been a month associated with affairs of the heart (Valentines Day). Few Americans may know that February is also American Heart Month, dedicated to raising awareness of heart health. According to the American Heart Association over 813,000 people will die this year from heart disease.
Here are the top 10 myths about heart disease:
1) I’am to young to get heart disease. What you do (or don’t do) now will effect you later. Plaques and cholesterol can begin to deposit in arteries in childhood. Obesity, inactivity, and diabetes can hasten the onset of heart disease.
2) I’ll know if I’am having a heart attack, if I get chest pain. Its true the majority of heart attacks cause chest pain, radiating pain to the arm/s, and cold sweating. However many heart attacks cause nausea, shortness of breath, or dizziness and may not be associated with pain. New research shows that women often do not have the typical signs of heart attack or may not feel it at all. This of course is dangerous because they may not seek help in time. It’s better to overreact and risk feeling silly than underact and risk being dead.
3) I know my body and I would know if I had high blood pressure. If you ever get warning signs from having high blood pressure, likely the damage is already done. People can go decades with high blood pressure and never feel anything unusual. All the time it is slowly damaging kidneys, heart, and eyes.
4) Its genetic, I have a family history, there’s nothing I can do about it. You can control your lifestyle. Staying active, eating right, watching your weight (any effort goes a long way), and controlling your cholesterol will help balance your genetic factors.
5) If I take my diabetes medications, I won’t have the cardiovascular complications. Not true! Diabetes is usually accompanied by other conditions “comorbidities” like high blood pressure, obesity, and kidney disease. These all take a toll on your cardiovascular system. Even if you control your diabetes, you are still at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
6) Heart failure is when your heart stops beating. Actually heart failure occurs when the heart is so weak, enlarged, or otherwise damaged, that is can no longer pump enough blood around the body. This causes swelling in the legs, debilitating fatigue, and shortness of breath. Treatment usually includes many medications and an implanted pace maker.
7) I don’t need to get my cholesterol checked until I’am over 30. You should start monitoring cholesterol levels in your early 20′s. If you have a strong family history of high cholesterol, you should start even younger. The deposits that cause your heart attack or stroke in the future, are being formed today.
8) My heart is beating fast or pounding, I am having a heart attack. No, a rapid heart rate can is usually caused by exertion or lack of cardiac conditioning, however if it doesn’t go away with rest, you may have developed an arrhythmia. Some arrhythmias are harmless and other can put you at higher risk of stroke. there is no way to tell the difference without a proper work up from a cardiologist.
9) Pain in my legs is too far away from my heart to be heart disease. Not Necessarily. Poor circulation in your legs may be causing pain an tingling. If this condition is severe enough, you might have peripheral artery disease (PAD). Those with PAD are 5 times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.
10) I shouldn’t exercise if iv’e had a heart attack. Research shows that getting “moderate-intensity” activity after a heart attack is key to survival and recovery. Of course this should be done under the direction of your doctor.
If you have heart disease, heart attack or stroke, diabetes, or high cholesterol, Please consider participating in one of these clinical studies.