Human beings are naturally drawn to big promises, easy solutions and pat answers. This is especially true in the case of heart disease. Here are four facts that it seems like nobody wants to know.
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1. Forty percent of people who have heart attacks have few or no risk factors. We hear about these people all the time. Super-fit athletes and trim, healthy adults who get strokes or heart attacks seemingly out of the blue. These often include health-food eating lifelong non-smokers. Does this negate the preventive advice you’re likely to hear from your doctor, this blog and other sources? No. You can still significantly lower your risk of stroke and heart disease by eating a healthy diet, refraining from tobacco use, and exercising regularly. A healthy lifestyle remains an outstanding investment in your future health. Yes, you can still do everything right and still die of cardiovascular disease. But that’s just the way it is. If you’re worried that you may be one of the 40 percenters, here are a few things you might want to do:
Review your family history. If you have near relatives who have heart or vascular disease or died young of heart attacks, you need to see a preventive cardiologist and check your risk factors regularly.
Listen to your body. Be alert to unusual pain, discomfort, numbness, or weakness. If you notice you’re more often short of breath when walking or climbing the stairs – it’s probably a sign to call your doctor.
Don’t stop exercising, eating right, or refraining from tobacco use. Just because you can do everything right and still die of a heart attack is no reason to backslide or adopt bad habits. Fitness, good nutrition and tobacco abstention not only lower your risk of heart disease, but other diseases as well: cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and depression – not to mention dental disease. Do you like getting dental work?
Learn more about heart disease risk factors here
2. Statins work. Why should this be bad news? Because most people prefer not to take medicine. Some people fail to take prescribed medications as directed, or at all. And other people don’t trust the big pharmaceutical companies that manufacture statins and other drugs. But the truth is that Big Pharma and its products improve, prolong and save hundreds of millions of lives. The cholesterol-lowering properties of the drugs known as statins have been rigorously studied in large, well-controlled, multi-center clinical trials. These studies show that when used in specific doses statin drugs can successfully bring high levels of LDL cholesterol down to a safer level and even reverse the buildup of fatty plaques in the coronary arteries. The well-known side effects of statins which include muscle deterioration and liver disease affect only a statistically small number of the millions of people who could benefit from statins – and the odds are that you aren’t one of them. And of course, statins should be combined with a heart healthy lifestyle that includes tobacco abstention, a healthy diet and regular exercise to be of maximum benefit to the heart.
Learn more about statins here
3. We hear too much about the benefits of chocolate.
Sure. Who doesn’t like chocolate? It delights the palate and soothes the mind. And there are a few studies that associate dark chocolate with a somewhat lower risk of heart disease. But really, if you’re concerned about heart disease, there are probably 100 more beneficial lifestyle changes you should make before you start eating dark chocolate. If you’re sitting there with a Toblerone bar in one hand, and the TV remote in the other, and you think you’re doing your heart some kind of favor, think again. The good news – if you want to eat a few bites of dark chocolate every day as part of a Mediterranean diet that is fine – but make sure you exercise and abstain from tobacco too!
Read more about chocolate and your heart
4. Walnuts alone can’t cure heart disease. Walnuts are delicious. They’re high in fiber. They fill you up. Walnut oils are generally “good” oils from a cardiovascular standpoint. But they are a high calorie food. And they’re not medicine. Some people go overboard in promoting the benefits of walnuts. There is no evidence that walnuts are an additive benefit to cardiovascular health. They confer no bonus to an already heart-healthy diet. The best way to eat walnuts is as a substitute for some less healthy treat. In other words: Want a cookie? Have a walnut instead.
Read more about the benefits of adding nuts to your diet here
Now that your bubble has been burst, you can read about three heart disease facts that will make you happy here.