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Heart Health Myths

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans, yet there are still so many misconceptions about heart health. Knowing how to separate fact from fiction may just save your life.

Myth: Women get heart disease less often than men.

While more than 70 percent of sudden cardiac events, like heart attacks, happen in men, heart disease is the leading cause of death in women over 65 AND about the same number of women die from heart disease as men each year.

Myth: If you have heart disease, you should cut fat from your diet.

This isn't entirely true. While you should eat a diet low in saturated, partially hydrogenated and trans-fats, there are some fats that are beneficial. Good-for-you fats include the unsaturated ones found in vegetable oils and omega-3 fatty acids in fish such as salmon. You can also include low-fat dairy products, nuts, olive oil, and lean cuts of meat.

Myth: Heart attack symptoms are obvious- you will know if you're having one.

Everyone knows chest pain is a symptom, but there are several major symptoms of a heart attack that many are not familiar with. Did you know a heart attack can also cause pain in your arm, neck, jaw and even your upper belly? If you or a loved one experience pain with other symptoms like nausea, lightheadedness, shortness of breath or cold sweats- call 911.

Myth: You don't have to worry about heart disease when you're young.

So yes, the risk of heart disease does increase with age, but what you do when you are young can impact you later in life. With the increase that we have seen in type 2 diabetes and obesity in younger age groups, heart disease is also starting to be seen in these same groups. Starting prevention early is key.

Myth: If you're a long-time smoker, quitting will not reduce your risk of heart disease.

The benefits you experience from quitting smoking will begin the minute you quit- no matter how old you are, how long you were a smoker or even the number of cigarettes you smoked a day. Your risk of a heart attack is reduced by 50% one year after quitting, and 10 years later, the risk is the same as if you had never smoked.

Have you fallen for any of these myths? Doing your research by talking to a healthcare professional and going to reputable sources like the American Heart Association will help you to separate fact from fiction and give you the information you need so you and your doctor can plan the best path to a healthy heart.