Heart Disease: Myths and Facts
You may be surprised to know that heart disease kills more people in the US than cancer; and it usually happens because of heart attacks in individuals with coronary artery disease. Low awareness regarding the reality of heart disease is a major contributor to this situation. Here are some of the most common myths associated with heart disease, and the facts:
Myth #1: It is entirely hereditary
While genetics is a contributing factor, it is not the sole reason for CAD. However, the majority of people who develop heart disease do so because of poor lifestyle choices like unhealthy eating, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption. Any of these choices can increase your blood pressure or cholesterol, and invite diseases like diabetes or metabolic syndrome – eventually leading to heart disease. Of course, a genetic predisposition to heart disease combined with bad lifestyle choices, will increase the risk manifold – so if it runs in your family you need to be all the more careful.
Myth #2: Sufficient quantity of HDL will counter the effects of LDL
Earlier, it was thought that higher quantities of the good cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein, would be able to offset the effects of the bad cholesterol – low-density lipoprotein. However, recent studies suggest that while a high HDL level is desirable, the body may still deposit cholesterol in the arteries, leading to atherosclerosis. So doctors work at reducing the LDL.
Myth #3: Diet control can drastically reduce levels of LDL
This is true only if you have mildly elevated levels of LDL; you can minimize oil, avoid foods with LDL, and consume more foods with HDL, and you may see results in a few weeks to months. However, if your LDL level is quite high, you will need to take medicine to lower it – like statin, for example.
Myth# 4: You will be able to feel it if your blood pressure was high
Nothing could be further from the truth! Blood pressure is called ‘the silent killer’ because you don’t know that you have it, unless you have had it checked. Hypertension is asymptomatic – and then just like that, it may cause a heart attack – or a stroke.
Myth #5: All fats are bad for you
There are several different types of fats, and some of them are actually good for you. Here’s a breakdown:
- Partially hydrogenated oils, called trans fats are the worst; they are found in many processed and packaged foods, and they raise LDL cholesterol
- Saturated fats found in red meat, butter etc. also raise LDL
- Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are actually good for you as they help lower your LDL. Examples are walnuts, fish like salmon, herring and trout, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, avocado, olive oil, peanut butter, and so on.
Myth #6: There are super-foods that can help prevent heart disease
While there is no doubt that certain foods can help maintain a healthy heart, there isn’t a food that can prevent heart disease. Blueberries, pomegranates, walnuts, fish, avocado, and so on, are beneficial for the heart, but prevention is not possible. However, certain diets, like the Mediterranean diet of whole grains, olives, fish, fruit, vegetables, legumes, and olive oil may be beneficial in lowering risk of heart disease.
Myth #7: My heart will be in good shape with 2-3 hours of intense workouts a week
Sadly, this is nowhere near enough. You need to have at least 5 -6 workout sessions in a week. Apart from that, you just need to ensure that you’re active. Don’t lounge on the sofa; instead, walk about inside the house. Climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator, walk instead of taking the car if where you need to go isn’t too far away – walk around in a mall; anything you enjoy.
Myth #8: Even if I get CAD, stents or surgery will fix me
Yes, surgeons can use either of these methods to restore circulation to your heart. But remember that your body is never really the same after a surgery. Additionally, the stenting or surgery does nothing to cure you of the CAD – the disease will always be there in your body.