As American Heart Month draws to a close, it's important to encourage continued, year-round awareness of heart health as well as correct some of the common heart health myths or misconceptions people may have about heart disease: People who are physically fit and active are not at risk for heart disease. While it's great to be fit and get plenty of exercise, it's not a guarantee of good heart health. Cholesterol levels, genetics and other factors can contribute to heart issues -- and no matter how fit and active you are, smoking and overindulging in less-than-healthy foods will still take a toll on your body.
Women are at higher risk of dying from breast cancer than heart disease. Wrong, by a long shot. Statistics indicate that across all age groups (including childbearing years), death from heart disease is more common among women than breast cancer. Young women especially should begin taking care of heart health right now -- the combination of smoking and birth control increases their heart risks by as much as 20%.
When blood sugar levels are under control, diabetes is not a heart threat. Think again. Though good levels are healthier for diabetics, what many people don't realize is that the diabetes itself can cause inflammation, which in turn can damage blood vessels. Monitoring and maintenance of blood pressure, cholesterol and weight remain important to overall health.
Heart disease primarily affects the aging and the elderly. Yes, many of the symptoms of heart disease manifest as we age - but the seeds of risk are often planted early in our lives. They range from poor eating habits acquired in early childhood (including over-consumption of fast-foods or processed foods containing high levels of fat, sugar and sodium) to discreased levels of physical activity, increasingly sedentary lifestyles, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and more.
Plaque does not accumulate in our arteries overnight. It can take years to develop, so the earlier we become conscious of healthier heart habits for ourselves and our children, the better our odds of avoiding heart disease later in life.
Article by Kim Washetas, contributing writer and enthusiastic whole health advocate. Sources: USA Today, Ochsner Health Center