Almost half of all Americans have one or more risk factors for heart disease. Yet, with all the misinformation about the condition, most don’t know it or aren’t too concerned.
The heart and vascular experts at Presence Health are committed to exposing the truth about this deadly disease, which claims more lives than cancers combined.
Read on to separate facts from fiction. Once you know the truth, learn your risks with our free online heart health assessment. It just takes a few minutes and includes a printable report to share with your doctor. Plus, you’ll be entered to win a Fitbit Blaze™ smart fitness watch to help you stay heart healthy.
To make an appointment with a specialist, call us anytime at 312.626.9608. Or visit a heart and vascular care location close to home.
Myth: The main symptom of a heart attack is chest pain.
Fact: Not all heart attacks begin with chest pain, and the symptoms of a heart attack can vary from person to person. Other symptoms to keep in mind are shortness of breath when exercising, nausea, heartburn, upper body pains and cold sweats — all of which could be signs of abnormal blood flow to your heart. If you think you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 immediately or go to your nearest emergency room.
Myth: I don’t have any symptoms, so I don’t have to worry.
Fact: More than 60 percent of women and 50 percent of men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms. And because symptoms can vary between men and women, they’re often misunderstood. The most well-known image associated with a heart attack is a man clutching his chest in extreme pain. In fact, women are more likely to experience more subtle symptoms, such as shortness of breath, nausea and pain in the back or jaw.
Myth: Heart disease is just a man’s problem.
Fact: Actually, heart disease is the #1 killer of women in this country. And while traditional risk factors, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity, affect both genders, other factors may play a larger role in the development of heart disease in women. Diabetes, depression and smoking (just to name a few) all cause greater risks for women than men.
Myth: There is a heart disease gene.
Fact: While genetics play an important role in heart disease, there’s no single gene responsible for cardiac and vascular problems. And even if heart disease runs in your family, there’s still a lot you can do to reduce your risk. Some factors, such as high blood pressure and high blood sugar levels, often can be kept in check through lifestyle changes. You can reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 80 percent by improving your diet, exercising regularly, taking medication or a using a combination of these tactics.
Myth: For women, breast cancer is the greatest health risk.
Fact: Heart disease claims more lives than all cancers combined. Consider: one in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, while heart disease claims one in three. That’s approximately one death every minute. And though great strides have been made to raise awareness, only 1 in 5 women currently believe heart disease is her greatest health threat.
Myth: Heart disease affects only the elderly.
Fact: Heart disease doesn’t discriminate by age. And while the risks do increase with age, factors like overeating and a sedentary lifestyle can cause plaque to accumulate in your arteries and produce dangerous blockages later in life. Even if you lead a healthy lifestyle, being born with an underlying heart condition can be a risk factor.
Myth: I’m fit, so I can forget about heart disease.
Fact: Even if you’re in amazing shape, your risk for heart disease isn’t completely eliminated. Factors like cholesterol, eating habits and smoking can mitigate other healthy habits. You can be thin and have high cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends you start getting your cholesterol checked at age 20, or earlier, if your family has a history of heart disease.
Myth: Regularly skipping breakfast isn’t so bad for my heart.
Fact: You’ve probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it appears to be true. Research indicates that men who skip breakfast are 27 percent more likely to have heart attacks or die from coronary heart disease than men who eat breakfast. Skipping breakfast has been linked to heart disease risks including high blood pressure, obesity and unhealthy levels of blood fats.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mayo Clinic and American Heart Association