9 myths about heart disease – true or false

Heart disease is one of the biggest health challenges globally, affecting millions of people every year. In the fight against these diseases, education and correct information are essential. However, in our society full of conflicting information, many myths and misconceptions about heart disease remain.

In this article, we mention 9 of the most common myths about heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions. By debunking these myths, we aim to facilitate a better understanding of cardiovascular disease, promote prevention and encourage a healthy lifestyle for heart and cardiovascular health.

Young people should not worry about heart disease

While it is true that heart disease is more prevalent among the older population, between 4-10% of heart attacks occur in people under 45, especially men.

That doesn’t mean we have to live in constant fear. However, it is important to remember that heart health in old age is strongly influenced by our lifestyle throughout life. Choices made in youth such as quitting smoking, regular physical exercise and eating a balanced diet lay the foundation for a healthy heart later in life.

If you suffer from cardiovascular disease, you should avoid physical exertion

This myth is completely false. An active lifestyle is beneficial for everyone, even those with cardiovascular disease.

According to guidelines issued by the European Society of Cardiology in 2020, people facing heart disease should include at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise in their weekly routine. However, for best results, it is recommended to move as much as possible every day (at least 30 minutes a day).

However, for people with a history of cardiovascular disease or a completely sedentary lifestyle, it is recommended to consult a doctor before starting regular intense sports activity. Specialist doctors can recommend various types of exercise suitable for your physical condition, which may not pose a danger to your heart health.

I’m on cholesterol-lowering medication, so I can eat anything

Some drugs, such as statins, lower blood cholesterol levels. However, this does not mean that a person taking statins can consume anything without suffering the consequences.

It is true that statins reduce blood cholesterol levels by blocking the enzymes in the liver responsible for producing it. However, cholesterol levels in the body can also increase due to diet.

For effective treatment of high cholesterol, it is best to avoid foods high in saturated fat and trans fat, whether or not you are taking such medication.

My family has a history of cardiovascular disease, so I’m guaranteed to suffer from it too

If your close family members have suffered from heart disease and you’re worried, this myth is not entirely true.

Indeed, a family history of cardiovascular disease has been correlated with an increased risk of such diseases. However, it does not mean that it is guaranteed. Even people with a genetic predisposition to cardiovascular disease can drastically reduce their risk through a series of lifestyle changes (read here how you can prevent heart disease at any age).

It is important to note, however, that a family history is not necessarily a sign of genetic predisposition. Instead, families tend to follow similar lifestyles, with the increased risk of cardiovascular disease influenced by their own habits.

If I don’t have any symptoms, I don’t need to go to the doctor

This false myth is common but very dangerous, as some people may not discover severe conditions until it is too late.

Cardiovascular disease risk factors such as blood pressure or cholesterol do not produce symptoms when their levels are raised above the values recommended by doctors.

These risk factors are also known as “silent killers” for exactly this reason.

If you want to make sure your heart is healthy, it’s best to have regular check-ups and monitor your risk factor values, whether you have symptoms or not. After testing, record these values in the Dahna app to calculate your 10-year risk of heart disease.

Dahna helps prevent heart disease

Vitamins can prevent heart disease

A balanced and heart-friendly nutrition should contain the 3 essential macronutrients as well as micronutrients such as vitamins. And so, if instead of fruits and vegetables you take dietary supplements with vitamins, you should be protected against cardiovascular disease, right?

Well, studies show that there is no clear association between vitamin supplements and a healthy heart. The authors of a 2018 study on the subject concluded that taking vitamins “does not improve cardiovascular outcomes in the general population.” They also stated that:

“There are no shortcuts when it comes to nutrition – supplements are no substitute for healthy food.”

I’ve smoked for years, no point in stopping now

Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for cardiovascular disease. However, the negative effects of smoking are not permanent, and even if you have smoked for many years, you can reverse these effects.

Thus, studies show that the risk of cardiovascular disease can decrease from the very first day of quitting smoking. Within 5 years of quitting the habit, smokers can reach a cardiovascular disease risk comparable to those who have never smoked. Although kicking the habit isn’t easy, it will give you extra years of life, more energy and a healthy heart.

Heart disease only affects men

This myth is completely false – heart disease is now one of the leading causes of death in both men and women. It is true that men tend to develop cardiovascular disease earlier than women, and have a higher risk of coronary heart disease. However, women have a higher risk of stroke.

This myth leads to an underestimation of cardiovascular risk among women, which in turn leads to less aggressive treatments being prescribed to women.

For a healthy heart, you need to avoid all fats.

Fats have a bad reputation among the population, but they are essential to the proper functioning of our bodies.

When we talk about avoiding fat, we’re talking about saturated fat, found in foods like processed meats, commercial snacks and until, or trans fat, found in baked goods or frozen pizza.

Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, bring enormous benefits to heart health. Extra virgin olive oil, for example, is a must in a complete and balanced diet such as that promoted by the Mediterranean diet.

It is also recommended to eat foods rich in omega-3 (a type of polyunsaturated fat) such as:

  • fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring)
  • tofu
  • nuts and seeds

Bibliography

Can people with heart disease exercise safely?

Premature Heart Disease – Harvard Health Publishing

Association of Multivitamin and Mineral Supplementation and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease | Circulation

Smoking and Cardiovascular Disease

Sex differences in coronary heart disease and stroke mortality: a global assessment of the effect of ageing between 1980 and 2010

Leave a comment