Myths and Facts About Heart Health that You Need to Know

Knowing and clarifying the most common myths and truths about heart health is the first step to protecting your heart. Learn more!
Myths and Facts About Heart Health that You Need to Know
Leidy Mora Molina

Reviewed and approved by the nurse Leidy Mora Molina.

Last update: 27 May, 2023

Cardiovascular diseases represent one of the leading causes of disability and death worldwide. However, people know very little about these conditions and how to prevent them. Here are the most common myths and truths about heart health.

Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that cardiovascular diseases are responsible for more than 17 million deaths worldwide each year. Heart health is compromised by factors such as obesity, smoking, hypercholesterolemia, and sedentary lifestyles.

Heart problems have been known since ancient times and have accompanied humankind throughout its development. This fact has conditioned the existence of numerous myths about heart health that have been transmitted from generation to generation.

Knowing what’s true and what isn’t is fundamental to preventing these conditions. Here are 11 myths and truths about heart disease.

1. Heart disease only affects older people

Older age is a major risk factor for the development of cardiovascular conditions, such as myocardial infarction, high blood pressure, and heart failure. However, cardiomyopathies and valvular pathologies can occur at any time of life.

Similarly, it’s key to maintain a healthy lifestyle during youth to reduce the risk of these diseases later in life. In this sense, it’s wrong to think that it isn’t necessary to take care of your heart when you’re young.

2. Heart disease affects more men than women

It’s well known that heart problems have a higher incidence in men. Studies affirm that estrogen levels make it so that the female sex is less exposed to these conditions during youth and adulthood.

However, in older adults, the prevalence is the same in men and women. This is the result of estrogen deficiency in women at menopause. Hormone replacement therapy can reduce their cardiovascular risk.

3. I can’t have high blood pressure if I have no symptoms

High blood pressure is considered a silent killer. It usually appears progressively in the body, so as it sets in, the body tries to adapt to the change. For this reason, it’s common that people do not experience any symptoms that make them suspect the condition.

Most cases are diagnosed in advanced stages, as a result of the decompensation of the disease or as a result of a fortuitous finding in a routine analysis. In this sense, it’s crucial to assess the figures periodically in young people, adults, and the elderly.

Medir la hipertensión arterial.
Regular blood pressure measurement according to clinical guidelines allows for early detection of heart problems.

We think you may be interested in reading this, too: Exercise and Heart Disease: What Should You Take Into Account?

4. Myth: All chest pain is a heart attack

People are usually alarmed when they feel any type of chest discomfort. However, chest pain can be caused by a wide variety of causes. Such is the case with problems in the lungs, pleura, pericardium, skin, muscles, and joints.

A heart attack usually presents as a squeezing pain in the center of the chest that extends to the left shoulder and jaw. This discomfort usually persists for more than 30 minutes and is not relieved by analgesics. It’s also accompanied by nausea, sweating, shortness of breath, and palpitations.

5. You can’t have a heart attack without chest pain

This is one of the most common myths about heart health. The way heart attacks present themselves is not always the same for everyone.

In some women, it can be subtle or uncharacteristic symptoms, such as pain in the back, neck, or arms. If you suspect a heart attack, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

6. Scares and discomfort can cause a heart attack

Strong emotions and anxiety crises can precipitate a heart attack in susceptible people. In both cases, they increase blood pressure levels and the demands on the body, which increases cardiac demand and reduces oxygenation of the heart.

Special care should be taken in the elderly and in patients who have suffered a heart attack before. Reducing stress levels and anger management therapies play a crucial role in preventing heart attacks.

7. You can’t do any exercise after a heart attack

One of the most common myths about heart health is that you shouldn’t exercise after a heart attack because of the risk of relapse. However, research suggests that physical activity is essential in the rehabilitation of heart patients.

Sports sessions should begin progressively with low-intensity aerobic exercise, such as walking or jogging. In this way, it is possible to control and improve blood pressure, weight, cardiac function, and the risk of recurrence.

Anaerobic weight-lifting exercises aren’t recommended. A specialist should be consulted about the most appropriate movements..

8. Myth: Diabetes doesn’t increase your risk of heart problems

Diabetes mellitus is a condition with a high prevalence worldwide that usually overlaps with heart problems. Studies affirm that there is a strong evolutionary relationship between having diabetes and developing arterial hypertension in the medium term.

Diabetes itself is a risk factor for heart health. It modifies vascular dynamics and the body’s needs.

9. Supplements rich in omega-3 are essential for heart health

Currently, multiple studies affirm that the consumption of omega-3 has important beneficial effects in the prevention of coronary pathologies. However, the main therapeutic guidelines support obtaining this nutrient through the diet and, to a lesser extent, in the form of supplements.

Mediterranean diets, with fish as the main source of protein, are among the best options. Similarly, the consumption of fried seafood should be avoided and adequate intake of vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains should be emphasized.

Dieta mediterránea para la salud cardíaca.
The Mediterranean diet has always been proposed as an adequate plan for heart protection.

10. People with heart problems should avoid eggs

One of the most popular myths about heart health is that eggs are harmful to heart sufferers. The main argument is that egg yolks are rich in cholesterol and are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

However, large-scale research has shown that there is a very slight association between egg intake and heart disease. In addition, eating an egg a day helps balance the levels of bad and good cholesterol in most people.

11. Myth: Coconut oil is the best alternative for people with heart conditions

Coconut oil is recognized in many cultures for its cardioprotective effect. This is due to the contribution of medium-chain triglycerides that increase the levels of good cholesterol or HDL in the blood.

However, this oil contains 4 times higher concentrations of saturated fats than butter. For this reason, professionals recommend other options, such as olive or canola oil.

Lifestyle changes are key to protecting your heart health

There are many myths about heart health. Some of them are true, while others lack research and scientific backing. Remember to consult a specialist before initiating any changes in your lifestyle habits.

In general, eating a balanced diet, exercising at least 30 minutes a day, avoiding smoking, and maintaining regular check-ups with a professional are the best habits when it comes to preventing cardiovascular disease.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.