Five Myths About Heart Disease

Alan Reisinger, MD, Baltimore, MD:
There are some unfortunately well entrenched myths about heart disease.

Myth 1: Cholesterol numbers are the best indicator of heart disease.

There are multiple players in developing cardiovascular disease or heart disease: Smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, diabetes, having an LDL [often called bad cholesterol] particle number that’s overly high and probably most important, having inflammation in your body, which you can’t feel and you don’t know about unless it’s tested for.

Louis Minsky, MD, Baton Rouge, LA:
Myth 2: You would know if you had heart disease.

It’s hard to take heart disease seriously when you feel well every day or you think you feel well. You may not have chest pain, you may not be short of breath, or symptoms may come on over such a long period of time that not everyone presents with the elephant sitting on the chest — the crushing pain that we hear about that takes you to the emergency room with a cardiovascular event.

Jennifer Walden-Fain, MD, Louisville, KY:
Myth 3: Heart disease is a bigger threat to men than women.

A lot of women think that they are lower risk, but they’re actually not. An equal number of men and women have heart disease. Also, their symptoms are sometimes more silent or different. They may not have chest pain, they may feel sweaty, nauseous, short of breath. They may not realize what’s going on.

Lewis Weiner, MD, Providence, RI:
Myth 4: Emotional health doesn’t affect your heart health.

People who are not applying tools of self-care, not getting balance, not sleeping, not breathing, not taking time to enjoy and manage their lives in a civilized way, are in fact adding to their risk.

Alan Reisinger, MD, Baltimore, MD:
Myth 5: All dietary fat is bad for you.

There certainly are good fats and bad fats. The better fats, fats that are actually healthy for you, are things that are monounsaturated fats like extra virgin olive oil, the fat that comes from fatty fish, the omega 3 fatty acids that are very helpful in reducing inflammation in the body, and fats that come from nuts. Walnuts, almonds. Those are the kind of things we encourage people to eat.

Certainly, the saturated fats, the things that come from deep frying, we have people avoid.

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