When you think of heart disease, your mind may quickly picture an older man with a previous heart attack, family history of high blood pressure and years of smoking history. But that’s not the whole story. “Even people who seem to be in perfect health can be affected by heart disease. That’s why it’s so important to get the facts about heart disease and who’s at risk,” says Michael Gardner, MD, a Northwest Regional Heart & Vascular cardiologist.
Read on to understand some other common misconceptions about heart disease. By busting these heart health myths, you’ll be better informed about your own risk and ready to help your loved ones live heart healthy.
Heart disease in men and women
Myth: Heart disease is a man’s disease.
Fact: Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women.
One in three women die from the disease, which includes coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure, the American Heart Association notes.
Women become more at risk for heart disease and heart attacks during menopause. Why? Estrogen has heart health benefits; it helps reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol and relaxes blood vessels for better blood flow. But in menopause, women’s bodies produce less of this protective hormone.
Women also live about five years longer than men, and the likelihood of women experiencing heart conditions grows as they age.
Heart disease and age
Myth: I’m not old enough to worry about heart conditions.
Fact: Heart attacks are striking more young people than ever, especially women, according to the American Heart Association.
Heart disease can affect all of us, no matter age, weight or activity level. Factors that increase heart disease risk include:
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Tobacco use
- High cholesterol
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- History of preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication caused by high blood pressure.
Family history is also paramount. Does your brother or mother have high cholesterol or high blood pressure? Talk to your primary care provider about how you can prioritize your heart health with simple changes, such as walking for 30 minutes a day.
Heart disease recovery
Myth: I’ll never recover from a heart attack.
Fact: Your recovery largely depends on quick treatment and your commitment to necessary lifestyle adjustments.
The sooner you get treatment, the better. Most heart damage happens within the first two hours of an attack — that’s why it’s so important to get to a hospital quickly. Your physician will treat your blockage with clot-dissolving drugs, surgery or a balloon angioplasty, a procedure that involves inserting a small balloon into the artery to expand it and allow blood flow to resume.
Once you’re home, your medical team will outline helpful lifestyle changes, such as ways to improve your diet, quit smoking and manage stress.
Heart disease risk factors
Myth: Heart disease is unpredictable; there’s no way to know my risk.
Fact: Family health history, personal health history and lifestyle all play into your risk for heart disease — giving you and your doctor a good idea of your risk.
While we can’t predict the future, we can take a look at specific risk factors that increase your chances of developing heart disease. Start with our quick, free online risk assessment from Northwest Regional Heart & Vascular. You’ll receive a report detailing your risk level, which can guide the discussion with your provider about what screening and prevention is right for you.
Heart disease and your future
Myth: If I have risk factors for heart disease, there’s nothing I can do.
Fact: It’s never too late to take steps for a heart healthy future!
Talk to your health care provider about your particular risk factors and to get the support you need to eat healthier, stop smoking or start exercising. Your provider can also help with resources to help you manage stress and get more rest. Even simple changes can have a big impact on your heart health, not to mention your overall feeling of well-being.
Need a heart check-up? Meet our cardiology team and schedule an appointment.