While most may associate February with Valentine’s Day- at Case Integrative Health, we’re celebrating a different kind of heart. Each February also denotes American Heart Month, a wonderful opportunity for us to spotlight cardiac health, and raise awareness around the prevention and treatment of cardiac disease.
Cardiac disease remains the number one killer for Americans, claiming the lives of over 2,200 per day. Luckily, over the past few decades, what we know surrounding cardiac health has grown by leaps and bounds. However, common misconceptions and misinformation pervade, stopping many Americans from accessing information to boost heart health and prevent cardiac disease. Read on for some common heart health myths, and find out how you can show your heart some love this Valentine’s Day, and every day.
Myth 1: “Heart disease runs in my family, so there’s nothing I can do”
Often, you might assume that because heart disease runs in your family, you are powerless against your genes. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking can easily beget an “all-or-nothing attitude” toward your health. Yes, genetics are important, but they aren’t everything. As I like to say, genes load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger. It’s possible to turn bad genes off and good genes on, and those switches are usually due to lifestyle. By eating a nutritious and plant-filled diet, incorporating movement, sleeping well, stressing less, and targeted supplementation, it’s possible to unload the gun.
Myth 2: “Statins will do more harm than good”
For those who aren’t aware: statins are a kind of medication proven to lower cholesterol. When combined with proper lifestyle habits, such as a nutritious diet and movement, they are an effective form of preventing cardiac disease. In fact, the medication can reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack by up to 25%. They accomplish this by improving the healthy function of arteries through lowering inflammation markers and improving endothelial function, as well as raising nitric oxide, helping to get more blood to vital organs.
Unfortunately, statins can get a bad rap, as they (like any medication) do not come with a risk of hazards. They have the potential to increase the risk of diabetes and can cause muscle aches and pains, impact cognition, and affect the liver. Luckily, whenever you are prescribed statins you will be under the careful watch of your doctor, who can keep a keen eye on any potential problematic side effects and potentially offset them with targeted supplementation. Ultimately, the benefits of the drug often outweigh the potential for any harm. They are certainly nothing to be afraid of, and are often a powerful tool in fighting cardiovascular disease!
Myth 3: “I don’t have any symptoms- so I do not have to worry”
Many might assume that because they have no signs of cardiac disease that they are safe from its effects. However, cardiac disease can take decades to develop, and often does so without any symptoms. Unfortunately, sometimes the first symptom of heart disease is a cardiac event such as a heart attack or stroke. While this sounds scary- don’t panic. It is simply a reminder to be proactive about your health, aware of any risk factors, and modulate your lifestyle accordingly. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Equally as important: it’s never too late to get better either.
Myth 4: “I should eat as little fat as possible to protect my heart”
It’s true- what you consume impacts your health, including your cardiac health. When it comes to food groups, fats often get a bad rap. Many people associate fat consumption with obesity, diabetes, and heart attacks. However, the opposite is actually true- partially. You should keep your diet low in saturated and trans fats as they can cause inflammation throughout the body, and cause harm to your heart and arteries. On the other hand, healthy fats, such as omega-3s are extremely good for you and are a valuable part of every healthy diet. You can find healthy fats in olive oil, fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds! These foods can actually reduce your risk of heart disease.
Myth 5: “I’m way too young to worry about heart disease”
As I mentioned, heart disease can take decades to develop. Knowing this, it’s never too early to start investing in your cardiac health. Choices you make early in life, will sow the seeds for what you grow in middle age and beyond. So, no matter how old you are, make it a priority to eat well, move your body, sleep soundly, and stress less. Your body will thank you now and later.
This Valentine’s Day, (and every day) I encourage you to show your heart some love. It’s the best gift you can give.