If you think you are too young to be diagnosed with a heart disease, or neglect heart health because it does not run in your family, you may have bought in to common myths that surround this disease. We delve into the top six misconceptions about heart disease with Dr Derek Yong, medical doctor, Restore Heart Centre.
MYTH 1: CHOLESTEROLS HARM YOUR HEALTH
Perpetuated over again is the misconception that cholesterol is harmful to your body. This is not true, at least not in its entirety. Cholesterols comprise two types of lipoprotein: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). LDL is the evil twin, contributing to fatty buildup in arteries and creating narrower passageways that raise the risk of heart attacks, strokes and peripheral artery disease.
On the other hand, HDL plays the good role, protecting you against heart attacks and strokes. Medical experts hold the belief that HDL carries LDL from the arteries back to the liver, where it is broken down and passed out from the body. Cholesterols are more than just HDL and LDL, and the truth is, they are vital components of our bodies. With too low a level, your bodies cannot function properly.
MYTH 2: YOU CAN’T PREVENT HEART DISEASES IF THEY RUN IN YOUR FAMILY
Just because your family has a history of heart diseases does not mean that you are sure to get it down the road. Indeed, you suffer a higher risk of inheriting the disease but besides genetics, environmental factors also contribute to the condition.
An unhealthy lifestyle, such as heavy smoking may be a more potent cause than genetics when it comes to heart disease risk. To reduce this risk, be aware of your lifestyle choices.
MYTH 3: LOWERED SALT INTAKE EQUALS REDUCED SODIUM INTAKE
A study conducted by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) has found that eight in 10 Singaporeans consume an average of 8.3 grams of salt. That is 60 per cent more than the recommended level of 5 grams. High sodium intake leads to high blood pressure, a contributor of heart disease.
You might think adding in less salt or soy sauce to your cooking would reduce your sodium intake, but that might not be the case. Hidden sodium is present in a lot of food, including canned food, processed meat and seemingly innocent ones like bread and cheese. The sodium in these foods potentially elevates blood pressure, increasing your risk of heart disease. To overcome this challenge, identify hidden sodium sources to reduce consumption, while increasing intake of potassium-rich food like bananas. Potassium balances out the negative effects of sodium, helping to lower blood pressure.
MYTH 4: HEART CHECK-UPS ARE FOR OLDER FOLKS ONLY
While medical recommendations for annual heart check-ups are generally for people who are 40 year old and above, those with a family history should start earlier as they have a higher risk of contracting the disease as adults. These check-ups, which include assessment of cardiovascular risk factors, will help you pre-empt heart diseases. These risk factors include hypertension, hyperlipidaemia and diabetes mellitus.
Adopting heart-healthy diets and lifestyle will keep heart diseases at bay but they are not substitutes for a regular visit to the clinic, especially since it is always good to catch them in the early treatable stages where symptoms are minor.
MYTH 5: HEART DISEASES AFFECT MOSTLY MEN
Heart diseases are for men, and breast cancers are for women. This is a common misconception that still lingers on among the public. A study conducted by Harvard Medical School shows that since 1984 there has been a rise in deaths from heart diseases in women. Heart diseases are the leading cause of death in both men and women.
High estrogen levels in women may decrease the risks of certain heart diseases but as they age, the estrogen levels fall, reducing the protective effect. By age 60 to 65, the risk of heart diseases among men and women are about the same, and in fact by age 75, women carry higher risks than men. Ultimately, it is lifestyle choices and diets that are better protectors of heart health.
MYTH 6: WARNING SIGNS OF HEART DISEASES ARE ALWAYS OBVIOUS
You saw them in films. You read about them in publications. When heart trouble is about to strike, common signs and symptoms like chest pains, shortness of breath and cold sweat set in. But sometimes heart diseases are silent killers. Heart attacks, for example, do not always happen in the same way, and in some cases, no symptoms manifest to alert the person.
At the same time, high blood pressure, which is often a precursor and contributor to heart diseases, does not reveal any symptoms till it is too late, or when it is severe enough. Affected people often do not recognize that they require immediate care. Early treatment of high blood pressure can significantly reduce the risk of a heart attack, stroke and other serious health issues.
Article contributed by Dr Derek Yong, an accredited doctor of Mount Alvernia Hospital.