Heart disease is consistently the leading cause of death in the United States, but despite its prevalence, there is still lots of misinformation on the subject.
Myths and half-truths about something as serious as this can lead to potentially fatal health complications, so it’s important that you have an accurate understanding of the condition. Here are five myths about heart disease that need to be debunked once and for all.
1. "Only old people get heart disease."
While it’s true that getting older puts you at a higher risk of heart disease, it can develop at any time. Other risk factors for heart disease include obesity and Type 2 diabetes, and those conditions are on the rise among young people. Because of this, it’s likely that the prevalence of heart disease among this age group will increase as well.
2. "Heart disease only affects men."
Younger men are, in fact, at a higher risk of developing heart disease than women of the same age; however, by the time you reach 60 years old, the risk is roughly equal between both genders. Additionally, when all age groups are considered, more women have died of heart disease than men every year for the last two decades.
3. "Genetics decides who gets heart disease."
While a family history of heart disease does play a role in determining your risk, it is not the sole deciding factor. Even with your genetics working against you, there are still plenty of other ways you can reduce your chances of developing it—such as maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and having your cholesterol and blood pressure checked.
4. "Blood pressure naturally increases with age."
High blood pressure is one of the major risk factors of heart disease. It’s true that it tends to naturally increase as you age, but this is one instance where natural doesn’t equate with healthy.
Your arteries harden over time, and this causes your heart to pump blood with increasingly more pressure. As your heart continues to work harder, this causes it to become even less effective at pumping blood, which does even more damage to your arteries. High blood pressure at any age can create a vicious cycle that’s responsible for heart disease.
5. "A high-fat diet is likely to lead to heart disease."
This is a myth that, until recently, even medical professionals believed to be true. However, new research shows that this might not be the case. When it comes to fat and heart disease, the most frequently cited offender is saturated fat—which can be found in things like cheese, dairy, and fast food. However, according the most current meta-analyses of the data available, there is no provable link between the two.
This is not to say that you should go out and gorge yourself on hamburgers guilt free, though. Most medical professionals still suggest that people follow the traditional guidelines until more research can be done on the issue. These guidelines currently state that no more than 7% of your daily calories should come from saturated fat. Instead, most of your fat intake should be coming from plant-based unsaturated fats.