Top 10 Myths about Heart Health
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Tacking misinformation around cardiovascular topics isn’t for the faint of heart. Luckily, the SCL Health heart health team has broken it down for you:
1. All heart attacks have the same warning signs
We all know the classic heart attack symptoms: chest pain, arm/back discomfort, shortness of breath. But what if we told you that you could have a heart attack, and not feel any of those symptoms? The American Heart Association reports that 1 in 5 heart attacks are “silent.” These cardiac arrests go unnoticed and are sometimes discovered when examining the heart for a different problem. It’s crucial not to ignore even the smallest of symptoms and call your doctor if you have concerns.
2. Young people don’t need to worry about heart health
When you’re young, it’s always a good idea to be proactive about your health. But, in the case of heart health, it’s essential. A study found that 30 percent were 35 to 54 years old out of thousands of heart attack hospitalizations. This long-term study also found that young heart hospitalizations are increasing. It’s never too early to consider healthier heart habits.
3. Heart disease affects all races equally
According to a medical literature review, heart disease disproportionately affects Black/African Americans. Additionally, more Asian Americans are likely to contract coronary artery disease earlier in life than other races. Non-White Hispanics have lower cases of cardiovascular disease than Black and Asian Americans, and White Americans have the lowest cases. So, in short, heart disease does not affect all races equally. It’s essential to consult your doctor to understand your unique risk factors.
4. Heart disease affects all education-levels equally
Like race, heart disease affects education levels disproportionately. A Journal of the American Heart Association study found that less-educated adults are more likely to die from heart attacks. But it’s important to remember your statistics teacher’s favorite motto: correlation doesn't equal causation. There are many heart disease risk indicators, and all should be considered.
5. Heart disease affects men primarily
You’ve probably heard this one before, and you might be surprised that it’s a myth. The CDC reports that almost as many women die from heart disease as men. And, just like men, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. Heart disease may disproportionately affect race/educational levels, but it’s mainly blind to gender.
6. There is no way to prevent heart problems if you have a family history
It’s easy to feel discouraged when you discover a family history of heart disease and believe there’s no way to prevent cardiac arrest. And while it’s easy to believe this, it’s important to know it isn’t true. Preventative action could be life-saving, especially for people with a family history of heart disease. Visiting a cardiologist with a list of questions is a great place to start.
7. Mental health doesn’t affect heart disease
When thinking of ways to prevent heart disease, you might suggest regular exercise, a healthy diet, and not smoking. However, many don’t consider mental health a contributing factor to heart health. In a study comparing those without depression, depressed adults are 64 percent more likely to develop coronary artery disease. Seeking mental health clinicians alongside cardiologists can give your heart the boost it needs.
8. Heavy drinking mainly affects the liver, not the heart
The impact of heavy drinking on the liver is no secret, but it may also cause significant heart damage. In an American Heart Association study, researchers found evidence that excessive drinking can cause heart tissue damage, even before symptoms begin to show. Moderate drinking is a good defense for preventable heart damage.
9. Heart attacks have an equal chance of happening any day, any time
You should always be prepared for a heart attack, but statistically, you don’t have an equal chance of having one on any day. A Heart Rhythm Journal study suggests that you’re more likely to have a heart attack in the afternoon. You’re also less likely to have a heart attack on Sunday. That being said, data on this is changing, and there’s not one significant day with the most cardiac arrests. So, we’ll kind of give you this one.
10. Irregular heartbeats are harmless
Most people have experienced an irregular heartbeat, also known as arrhythmia. In other words, you’ve probably felt your heart beating too slow, too fast, or with an unusual pattern at some point. And while arrhythmias can be harmless, never hesitate to make a doctor's appointment.
“Some abnormal heart rhythms may be completely asymptomatic….but most arrhythmias do cause symptoms,” said John Ferguson, MD, a cardiologist at SCL Heart & Vascular Institute. “Arrhythmias may be life threatening, and potentially fatal, so it’s important that all heart rhythms are properly evaluated.” And, in the meantime, check out our blog article on how to keep a healthy heart rate.