Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US, striking more than 1 in 4 Americans each year. Though heart disease awareness has increased, so have unfounded beliefs that actually raise the risk of having a fatal heart event. Here are three heart disease myths debunked – get the facts and protect your heart health.
3 Common misbeliefs that raise your risk of heart disease
Heart disease only strikes older people
Just because the majority of movies and TV shows portray heart attack victims as being older, heart disease can strike young adults and even kids. The prevalence of obesity in both adults and children has resulted in a rise in risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and incidence of heart disease across all ages.
Certainly, the older you are, the higher your risk for heart disease, but believing you shouldn’t worry about your heart health until you get older not only increases your chances of having a heart event at an earlier age, it also increases the risk of a fatal heart event. Regardless of your age, talk to your doctor about your heart disease risk factors and ways to protect your heart health.
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Alcohol is good for the heart
It’s true that research suggests that a little alcohol can boost your heart health, but that doesn’t give you a free pass to binge drink or take this heart-health tip to the extreme. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends drinking alcohol in moderation. What does this mean? An average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. A drink is 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1 to 1-1/2 ounces of hard liquor.
Drinking too much alcohol actually raises triglyceride levels in the blood, increases blood pressure, and the extra calories from alcohol can lead to obesity – all of which are risk factors for heart disease. In addition, binge drinking can lead to stroke and other potentially deadly heart conditions. Red wine has been the gold standard for the type of alcohol related to heart health, specifically because it is associated with an increase in HDL (good for you) cholesterol, but further research is being conducted to determine if other forms of alcohol are as beneficial.
It should be noted that the AHA recommends diet and exercise as primary ways to protect heart health and to not rely on alcohol in any form to ward off heart disease.
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People who are fit aren’t at risk for heart disease
Regular exercise, a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight are key factors in reducing your risk for heart disease, but there are other factors that hurt your heart, specifically the risk factors you cannot control. Uncontrollable risk factors include: male, post-menopausal female, family history of heart disease, older, and/or African American, American Indian, or Mexican American (these ethnicities have a higher risk of heart disease than Caucasians). Other risk factors that increase your risk of heart disease are diabetes, high cholesterol, Type A personality, chronic stress, or having hostility or anger management issues.
You may be able to run a marathon, but if you neglect to address other heart disease risk factors in your life, you actually increase your chances of suffering a heart event. Stick to your health and fitness routine but be aware that having peak fitness doesn’t make you immune to heart disease.