Myth or Truth: A Closer Look at Your Heart Health

question marks in shape of a heart

Physicians from Cleveland Clinic’s Heart & Vascular Institute take a closer look at some commonly held heart health beliefs. Find out if they are true or false and what you need to know on these topics.

True or False?
The peak hours for sudden cardiac death (SCD) are between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m.

True, says cardiologist Curtis Rimmerman, MD, Clinical Cardiology

Dr. Rimmerman goes on to say:
There have been several stories in the news lately about heart attack being more prevalent in the morning. This has long been recognized with an estimated 325,000 death a year in the U.S. Morning heart attacks had previously been linked to levels of circulating cortisol, which increases before awakening. A more recent study* suggests an alternative protein (KLF15) may be the cause. It was found that when the KLF15 levels are low upon waking, the risk for heart attack was greater; people with heart disease have lower levels of this protein.

Further study is required. A biochemical link is likely, but sorting it out and potentially treating it is work in process. Beta blockers are believed to be beneficial. You are at greater risk for a morning cardiac event if you have heart disease or a family history of heart disease or if you have health conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Smoking is also a risk factor.

Note: A defibrillator is necessary to stop this heart event. If you wake up light headed, short of breath or having chest pressure, call 911 immediately.

*This study was led by Mukesh Jain, MD, director of the Case Cardiovascular Research Institute at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

True or False?
The pain in my legs must be a sign of aging and would have nothing to do with my heart.

False, says vascular specialist Natalie Evans, MD, Cardiovascular Medicine

Dr. Evans goes on to explain:
There is a condition called peripheral arterial disease (PAD) which happens as a result of plaque and cholesterol buildup in the arteries throughout the body, not just your coronary arteries. This can gradually restrict the blood flow to your legs and arms and vital organs. When the arteries leading to your legs narrow, you may feel pain, cramping or weakness in your legs. Often you will feel it in the calves when you are exerting yourself.

Having PAD increases your risk for coronary artery disease (CAD). Narrowed arteries can cause both PAD and CAD, and often physicians will use the same medications to treat and manage both diseases.

True or False?
Drinking water at a certain time of day maximizes its effectiveness on the body and can prevent heart attack.

False, says cardiac surgeon A. Marc Gillinov, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgery

Dr. Gillinov had the following to say about this myth:
Content about this has been circulating on Facebook and some supporting articles. Claims say drinking water in the morning just after waking up helps to activate the internal organs. Others say a glass of water before going to bed helps you avoid stroke or heart attack. There are many things that each of us can and should do to maximize health. Drinking water instead of a full calorie soda is a great way to keep excess weight off. But there is no data to suggest that “when” you drink water matters. Choose water over most other drinks. But don’t schedule your drinking according to a fictitious claim that the time you drink it matters.

  • Kelly Luke

    I always ate butter. Makes sense, it’s real. Tastes better. I like salt. Red meat doesn’t always agree with me, same with too much dairy. Sad, I love ice cream. I didn’t always listen to the latest scientific findings. I use MY common sense. Which is not always reliable. So I investigate when I need to.

  • Alba Leclerc

    In other words… eat Italian, not Itamerican.

  • SloopJB

    This fixation on cholesterol is quite antiquated, get with the program Cleveland!
    Cutting carbs sorts it all out, fat (incl saturated fat) is good. Do it radically and you lose lots of weight too, then ease off once you’ve reached your desired weight.