Believing myths and misconceptions about heart disease may increase heart attack risk, from the Harvard Heart Letter
BOSTON—Knowledge about heart disease changes quickly, but our beliefs don’t always keep up. As a result, misconceptions abound. The June 2013 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter addresses ten commonly held but mistaken, ideas about heart disease.
For example, many people believe that everyone with heart disease should eat as little fat as possible. In reality, eating some fats actually lowers the risk of heart disease. These healthy fats include unsaturated fats found in vegetable oils and other foods, and omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon and other fatty fishes. The ones to be avoided, because they boost heart attack risk, are saturated and trans fats.
Another myth is that people with heart disease should take it easy. Not so. Physical activity is beneficial for both the healthy heart and the diseased heart. It strengthens the heart muscle, increases blood flow to the heart and brain, and improves overall health.
Here’s another: it’s okay for blood pressure to rise with age. High blood pressure is a sign that artery walls are becoming stiff. That forces the heart to pump harder, which damages arteries over time. When blood pressure rises above 140/90 millimeters of mercury at any age, it needs attention.
Another common belief is that it’s okay to eat anything if you take a cholesterol-lowering drug. In reality, eating foods high in cholesterol and saturated fat make these drugs less effective or even ineffective.
Other myths and misconceptions cover diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the benefits of taking vitamins and minerals, “it’s too late to quit smoking,” small heart attacks, angioplasty and stenting or bypass surgery as “cures” for heart disease, and gender. (more…)