Myth or Truth: A Closer Look at Your Heart Health

Heart health: What’s true, what’s myth

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.

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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.

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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.

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  • glen

    what is the relationship / correlation between high iron intake and heart attack,. esp for men?

    • The_Beating_Edge_Team

      I am not sure I have heard of this – do you want to include the link you are referring to – when I look at the National Library of Medicine (you can search as well- ) there is conflicting evidence and some that showed high iron relationship was also looking at red meat. If you can either reply with a link or send in this question through our nurses ( – I can try to find an answer. Or – you can look at our web chat schedule and ask one our doctors at that time. betsyRN

    • RNfromNY

      I’m not sure what the connection is either, but I have read that blood donation is a good way to rid excess iron, and lower your risk of heart attack.

  • Jeannine

    What time of day should I take my 81 mg aspirin?

    • Cat

      In the morning when you wake up.

    • Judy Q

      I take mine at night. I don’t think it matters when as long as it is a consistant time

  • tonya

    How do you get scar tissue in the middle of your heart where your electnoids are at and never had a heart attack

    • The_Beating_Edge_Team

      Are you talking about a heart block? Are you talking about a block in your electrical system caused by scar tissue?

      • tonya

        I had a complete heart block inn Jan. 2013…which my first pacemaker was placed…since then ive had my pacer remover and an AICD implantef in march..shocked 32 times in may had my first ablation in novembe shocked in december had my second ablation done in april..shocked a week later..I currently have VT..complete heart block..cardiomyophthy…my upper chambers and bottom chambers have a delay…I had an MRI done in March of 2013 that showed I had scare tissue in the middle of my heart where my electnoids are located…