Heart Disease: 3 Facts That Will Make You Happy

There’s good news if you look for it

Gloomy facts get most of the attention in the media. But the truth is, prospects for heart disease have never been better. Doctors know more about what works and what doesn’t and what is safe and what is not than ever before. Here are three facts about heart disease that should cheer you up.

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The rate of death from heart disease in people with diabetes is plummeting.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that the death rate from heart disease and stroke in people with diabetes dropped by 40 percent between 1997 and 2006. The CDC attribute the drop to better heart treatments, better management of diabetes, reduced smoking rates and the greater likelihood that people with diabetes are getting more exercise these days.

Sex is not dangerous for men with heart disease. “Sexual activity is associated with minimal cardiac risk,” write Cleveland Clinic’s A. Marc Gillinov, MD, and Steven Nissen, MD, in their book, Heart 411. They describe sex as “almost always” safe after a heart attack. “Most people can resume sex as soon as they feel well and can walk up two flights of stairs. The same principles apply to those who have undergone angioplasty or bypass surgery.” (If you suspect that most cases of heart attacks during sex occur among older men having extramarital affairs with younger women, you’re right. Drs. Nissen and Gillinov say the increased excitement/guilt increases the heart rate and blood pressure.) Sex may be risky when you’re having chest pain or shortness of breath, but by then, as the Heart 411 doctors put it, “you are probably thinking more about a visit to the hospital than about a trip to the bedroom.”

Heart 411

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“Fat is not a bad word.” So say Drs. Nissen and Gillinov. “But,” they caution, “the type of fat is important. … The fat from bacon is not the same as the fat in salmon or the olive oil. Some fats are good for your heart. Others are associated with coronary heart disease.” Just because a food is low in fat does not mean it’s heart healthy. Total fat intake does not correlate with development of coronary artery disease.

Their advice is, “When it comes to diets, the bad word is fad, not fat.”

The Heart 411 doctors are particularly concerned about the extremely low or no-fat diets that have recently become popular as a response to heart disease. They note that the only diet strongly supported by scientific evidence to improve heart health is the Mediterranean diet. Read more about the Mediterranean diet.

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