SPRINGFIELD – Tuesday marked the first day of American Heart Month, a time to focus on cardiovascular health.
Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is the number one killer of both men and women. However, people still don’t seem to know as much about this vital organ as they should.
“There are a lot of false assumptions out there when it comes to heart health from who is more at risk to when you’re most likely to experience problems,” explained Dr. Faiq Akhter. “It’s important to separate fact from fiction because those assumptions can put you at risk without you knowing it.”
So, Mercy Health – Springfield is setting the record straight on the top 5 most common misconceptions:
– I’ll know when I’m having a heart attack because I’ll have chest pain.
It’s important to realize that while chest pain is a common sign, there are other symptoms that can be just as much of an indicator that you need immediate medical help – things like shortness of breath, nausea, feeling lightheaded, or pain in your arm. Bottom line – if something feels off and you’re not sure, call 911.
– I’d know if I had high blood pressure because there would be warning signs.
It’s true that high blood pressure is a problem you want to know about – it can cause hardening and thickening of the arteries which can result in a heart attack, stroke, or other complications. However, it’s known as the ‘silent killer’ for a reason. Most people don’t know they have it until the damage is already done – all the more reason to know your numbers (which include blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and body mass index).
– I take medications for diabetes, to lower my cholesterol, or … fill in the blank … so, I’m all set.
While medications are a helpful part of treatment, they’re not a cure or license to let loose. Even when your numbers are under control, your habits are key to staying healthy. Eating poorly and physical inactivity can reduce the drug’s effectiveness and still put you at an increased risk for heart disease.
– If you have heart disease, you should take it easy.
This may be the most dangerous myth of all, as a sedentary lifestyle is one of the more serious public health problems of our time. Sitting around too much can double your risk of cardiovascular diseases and increase the risk of high blood pressure. Increasing physical activity doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon. Any extra movement helps strengthen the heart muscle and improve blood flow, so talk to your provider today about developing an exercise plan that suits your needs and abilities.
– If you have heart disease or a family history of heart disease, there’s nothing you can do about it.
Heart diseases are 80% preventable, so regardless of your background, healthy behaviors can make a huge difference toward keeping you healthy. Even if you’ve already been diagnosed, the most important thing to remember is it’s never too late to treat or prevent heart disease.
“The bottom line is many heart diseases are serious, but manageable. By doing your research, asking questions, and talking to your doctor about putting together the right plan for you, a healthy heart is well within reach,” said Dr. Akhter. For more information about heart health & the treatment options available, visit mercy.com.