Common Myths About Heart Disease (American Heart Month)

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Heart disease is only a concern for older adults.

In fact, plaque can begin to build up in the arteries in childhood or adolescence. The number of women dying from coronary heart disease between the ages of 35 and 44 has grown in recent years. As the problems of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension continue to affect more children, the risk of heart disease in the very young is continuing to increase. For young women, the combination of smoking and birth control increases the risk of heart attack by 20%.

Once I have had heart surgery, I can go back to my old lifestyle habits.

Angioplasty and bypass surgery relieves chest pain, known as angina, and may improve the quality of your life. However, they do not stop atherosclerosis; unless you change your bad habits, the arteries will continue to fill with fatty plaque. Eventually, your angina might return, or worse yet, you could suffer a heart attack or stroke. To save your heart following surgery, the following is recommended:

  • Enter a cardiac rehabilitation program
  • See a registered dietitian
  • Attend a smoking cessation class, if you smoke
  • Begin an exercise routine as approved by your doctor

As long as you take your cholesterol medication, you can eat whatever you want.

Cholesterol can come from the food that you eat, but your liver also makes it. If you do not make dietary modifications when on statins, your cholesterol levels will not improve and may get worse.

Exercise is too risky for people with heart disease and should be avoided.

Most people with heart disease are encouraged to exercise. In fact, after a cardiac event like a heart attack, it is usually recommended that people enter into a cardiac rehabilitation program and start exercising within two weeks. Exercise slows the progression of heart disease and reduces the risk of having either a first or recurrent heart attack. Being sedentary can lead to the development of blood clots in the legs. Even 10 minutes a day can make a big difference in how you feel and how your heart functions. Exercise can help to strengthen the heart and improve blood flow to the brain and internal organs.