Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death affecting both men and women. However, with a few changes in our lifestyle and habits we can actually prevent it at least to some extent.
There are plenty of misconceptions about heart disease and believing in these outdated ideas increases your risk. Here’s is what you need to know:
Myth No. 1 : Heart disease is a problem of old age
Fact: Your lifestyle decides your risk of getting heart disease. An unhealthy lifestyle can cause accumulation of plaque in arteries which later leads to blocked arteries. Now that obesity, diabetes, other risk factors are becoming common in younger age groups, heart disease is not any more restricted to senior citizens only. Sometimes, heart disease develops silently, even in those who are fit. We recommend that you periodically undergo health checks and be aware of signs and symptoms of heart disease, for better management.
Myth No. 2: Heart Disease affects men more than women
Fact: It is a misconception that heart disease is more common among men. Generally, women think that their greatest health risk is cancer; however, heart disease is the number one killer in both men and women. It is true that women before menopause are protected by estrogen but later the risk becomes more or less equal. Whether you are a man or woman, get your baseline heart examination done which includes checking your cholesterol, blood pressure, ECG etc. This will ensure that all your risk parameters are under control.
Myth No. 3: Fats are bad for your heart
Fact: Fats are macronutrients and there are different kinds of fats which are found in our foods. Not all of them are bad for your health. Trans fats are the worst among all fats. Trans fats are generally found in many baked and processed foods and it increases our harmful LDL cholesterol levels. Trans fats are also responsible for heart disease, stroke, diabetes etc. Saturated fats are found in red meat, butter, coconut oil etc. Saturated fat increases your good cholesterol (HDL) and also increases the level of bad cholesterol (LDL). Hence, people with certain health issues should restrict the intake of saturated fat and consult the doctor.
Polyunsaturated fats actually reduce your LDL levels. Sunflower oil, flaxseeds, salmon fish are few example of polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are good fats found in olive oil, avocados, peanut oil etc. Replacing saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats will actually help you in reducing your LDL levels.
Myth No. 4: Heart disease runs in my family, so I cannot do anything to prevent it
Fact: In today’s busy life even people who do not have a history of heart disease are diagnosed with it. However, when you have a family history of heart disease you are more at risk. But you can always take measures to reduce the risk. Certain measures need to be undertaken by all to avoid heart disease like not smoking or drinking alcohol, exercising regularly, controlling sugar and cholesterol level and going for preventive health checks.
Myth No. 5: I am taking cholesterol-lowering medications, so I can eat anything
Fact: Cholesterol-lowering medications gives a false sense of security when it comes to food choices, that it will undo any cholesterol overload, regardless of what you eat. Even while you are on cholesterol medications, you have to watch what you are eating i.e. follow your diet plan as advised by your doctor, so that your medication can do their job.
Myth No. 6: I can minimise the risk of heart disease by taking vitamins and supplements
Fact: Multi-vitamins and minerals serve as nutritional aids and not as a means of prevention from serious illnesses like heart disease. They cannot prevent the development of heart disease if you don’t control your risk factors for heart disease like eating unhealthy food, obesity, smoking etc. Though, it is important to take your prescribed medication, changing lifestyle is critical.
Myth No. 7: If I have heart disease, I cannot exercise anymore
Fact: Doing regular exercise is important, especially if you are diagnosed with heart disease. Exercise strengthen your heart muscles, manages your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. To ensure that it is safe for you, we suggest that you speak to your doctor before starting any exercise. You can also consult a physical therapist for developing a balanced exercise plan. It is also important that you pay attention to the warning signs like chest pain, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, nausea etc. if they arise while you exercise and bring it to your doctor’s notice.
Myth No. 8: I will know if I am having high blood pressure
Fact: High blood pressure is a silent killer, you may not even realise that you are having it. The only way to know that you are having high blood pressure I through measuring it. In case of extremely high blood pressure, you might feel severe headache, chest pain, fatigue etc. Untreated hypertension can lead to serious health issues including stroke, heart disease, kidney failure etc.
Myth No. 9: Heart failure means that my heart will stop beating
Fact: Your heart stops beating during cardiac arrest, not in heart failure. However, in case of heart failure, your heart keeps functioning but it fails to pump enough blood. Heart failure can cause shortness of breath, swelling in the feet and ankles, persistent coughing and wheezing. In contrast, if it is cardiac arrest, you will lose consciousness and stop breathing.
Myth No. 10: Stenting is safer than bypass surgery
Fact: Stenting is no doubt less invasive than bypass surgery and you recover faster. Coronary artery bypass grafting is a major surgery but when done by an experienced cardiac surgeon, the risks are low and it is safe. Your doctor will be the best judge to decide which treatment option is suitable for you.