Healthy Body

The 5 Biggest Heart Health Myths a Cardiologist Wishes You’d Stop Believing

Emily Laurence

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Photo: Getty Images / The Good Brigade
As a cardiologist and professor with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Laxmi Mehta, MD, spends a lot of time educating both patients and doctors-in-training about heart health. While she's sharing her expert intel about cardiovascular health and heart disease facts with patients, she often has to correct some major myths—ones even in-the-know wellness insiders believe.

You may know the ins-and-outs of the Mediterranean diet (commonly preached about my cardio docs) and even know how eating eggs on the reg affects your health, but do you believe one of the biggest heart health myths Dr. Mehta hears on a regular basis? Keep reading to see what they are—and to get the right information straight from an MD.

The biggest heart health myths, according to an cardiologist

1. there's nothing I can do to prevent heart disease because it runs in my family

There's a lot more in your control than you may realize, says Dr. Mehta. "Heart disease risks are higher in those with a family history, but aggressive preventative measures may significantly improve one’s risks of developing it," she says. Follow the American Heart Association's Life Simple Seven lifestyle changes, all of which can help improve heart health. They include: not smoking, staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy foods, reducing blood glucose, controlling blood cholesterol, and managing blood pressure.

2. i'm too young to get heart disease

"Heart disease can occur at any age and the plaque that leads to clogged arteries can start developing as early as childhood," says Dr. Mehta. Since rates for risk factors relating to heart disease (including diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity) are increasingly prevelent in young adults, it certainly shouldn't be considered an "elderly disease," she says.

3. statins are bad

Statins, the most common drugs used to lower cholesterol tend to get a bad rap, but Dr. Mehta says it's largely unwarranted. Statins lower cholesterol and have been shown to reduce risks of heart attacks, strokes, and other [heart-related] diseases in people most at risk. Still, statins aren't perfect. "There are some adverse effects such as muscle aches, new onset diabetes, and mild cognitive decline that can occur in some people," she says. "If these side effects occur, one should discuss with their physician so that the statin or dose can be changed." But even with these side effects, Dr. Mehta maintains statins aren't "bad."

4. if you don't have any symptoms of high blood pressure, you don't have it

There'a a reason why high blood pressure is often called the silent killer. "Most people don’t know their blood pressure is high unless they have it checked," she says. If left undetected, high blood pressure can result in heart attacks, heart failure, or strokes—a major reason why regular checkups with your doctor are important.

5. I don't have arrhythmia because my heart beats are nice and steady

Dr. Mehta says arrhythmia often goes undetected. "Most patients with atrial fibrillation notice an irregular heartbeat or shortness of breath or fatigue, but some patients [don't have any symptoms]," she says. "Whether symptomatic or not, the stroke risks are unchanged." The biggest risks: congestive heart failure, hypertension, advanced age, female gender, diabetes, vascular disease, or experiencing a stroke.

Heart health is something everyone should be thinking about. Once you have the facts about heart disease, it's easier to stick to habits that make an impact.

Here are eight ways to prevent heart disease. Plus, how exercise and heart health are connected

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