There are few other health topics as important and critical to us as human beings like the health of our hearts. Of course, there are a lot of myths about heart health, just as with so many other things. Conflicting information can be found everywhere, and while one piece of advice will urge you to do things a certain way, another will exist to contradict it and make it out as untrue.
So how do we tell the difference? How do we know what is good for our hearts and what isn’t? As with so many other basic things in life, it will ultimately come down to doing the necessary research and applying a little common sense as well. So here are a few Heart Health statements that you may have heard before; whether or not they’re true is the interesting part:
You need to exercise for at least an hour every day to keep your heart healthy.
Myth. Being physically active is important for your heart, but you don’t have to carve out an hour every day to do it. The American Heart Association suggests at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days a week. Or you can do at least 25 minutes of more vigorous activity 3 days a week. That can be anything like walking, swimming, or biking. You can break it up into 10 or 15 minutes here and there. The goal is just that you move.
Margarines are better for your heart than butter.
Myth. Butter has a lot of saturated fat and some trans fat, which are unhealthy for your heart. But some hard margarines have even more unhealthy trans fats. Look to make sure they don’t have trans fats. Better yet? Try brushing olive oil on your toast or bagel. It’s a tasty, healthier choice.
Your heart stops beating when you’re having a heart attack.
Myth. During a heart attack, the heart is almost always still beating but blood supply to it is blocked. That cuts off the heart’s oxygen supply, which can injure the heart. When your heart suddenly stops beating, it’s called “cardiac arrest.”
Heart disease kills more men than women.
Myth. Men tend to get heart disease earlier in life than women, but after menopause, women catch up. According to the American Heart Association, in 2010, more women died of heart disease (400,332) than men (387,318).
You get high cholesterol just because of what you eat.
Myth. There are lots of things that can impact your cholesterol. One of the main ones is your genes. If your parents or grandparents had high levels, there’s a good chance you could, too. Despite your genes, diet does matter. It’s best to limit foods with cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats. That means try to cut back on fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and deep-fried and processed foods.
About 1 in 10 Americans have some sort of heart disease.
Myth. According to the American Heart Association, nearly 86 million Americans — more than 1 in 4 Americans — have some type of heart disease. That includes heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and chest pain.
Being obese is the biggest risk factor for heart disease.
Myth. Sitting on your couch may be the worst thing you can do for your heart. According to a CDC report, 40% of Americans are at risk for heart disease because they’re inactive. Close behind, 34% are at risk due to obesity. The other most important risk factors are uncontrolled high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.
Eat only fat-free foods to protect your heart.
Myth. Fat-free was once the biggest food trend, but now it’s more important that you eat everything in moderation. Studies show, for example, that people who drank full-fat dairy had no higher risk of heart disease than those who didn’t. And foods that are labeled “fat-free” can still have lots of salt or sugar. Too much of that can be bad for your heart. Just be smart and always limit your portions.
To lower chances of heart disease, even non-drinkers should drink red wine.
Myth. Many recent studies have suggested that red wine may lower the risk of getting heart disease. If you drink, the American Heart Association suggests no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women. If you don’t drink, don’t start. The benefits don’t outweigh the negative health risks of alcohol — including high blood pressure, stroke, and obesity.
These are just some of the myths about heart health. Next week, we will look at some of the facts regarding good cardio-vascular health.