February is American Heart Month, a great time to start focusing on your cardiovascular health.
Did you know that cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is the number one killer of both men and women? Despite this fact, many people don’t know as much about this vital organ as they should.
“There are a lot of false assumptions out there when it comes to heart health, from who’s more at risk to when you’re most likely to experience problems,” Manuel Cortes, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Mercy Health – Heart and Vascular Institute, Lorain, explains. “It’s important to separate fact from fiction because these assumptions can put you at risk without you knowing it.”
So, Dr. Cortes is setting the record straight on the following top five most common misconceptions.
I’ll know I’m having a heart attack because I’ll have chest pain.
While chest pain is a common sign, there are other symptoms that can be just as much of an indicator that you’re having a heart attack and need immediate medical help. These symptoms include things like shortness of breath, nausea, feeling lightheaded, or pain in your arm. Bottom line – if something feels off and you’re not sure, call 911 right away.
I’d know if I had high blood pressure because there would be warning signs.
High blood pressure is a problem you want to know about because it can cause hardening and thickening of the arteries, which can then result in a heart attack, stroke or other complications. However, it’s known as the “silent killer” for a reason. Most people don’t know they have high blood pressure until the damage is already done – all the more reason to know your numbers, which include your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and body mass index.
I take medications for diabetes, to lower my cholesterol, etc. so I’m all set.
While medications are a helpful part of treatment, they’re not a cure or license to let loose. Even when your numbers are under control, your habits are key to staying healthy. Eating poorly and not being physically active can reduce the drug’s effectiveness and still put you at an increased risk for heart disease.
If you have heart disease, you should take it easy.
This may be the most dangerous myth of all, as a sedentary lifestyle is one of the more serious public health problems of our time. Sitting around too much can double your risk of cardiovascular diseases and increase the risk of high blood pressure. Increasing physical activity doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon. Any extra movement helps strengthen the heart muscle and improve blood flow. If you have heart disease, talk to your provider today about developing an exercise plan that suits your needs and abilities.
If you have heart disease or a family history of heart disease, there’s nothing you can do about it.
Heart diseases are 80 percent preventable. So, regardless of your background, healthy behaviors can make a huge difference toward keeping you healthy. Even if you’ve already been diagnosed, the most important thing to remember is it’s never too late to treat or prevent heart disease.
“The bottom line is that many heart diseases are serious, but manageable,” Dr. Cortes adds. “By doing your research, asking questions and talking to your doctor about putting together the right plan for you, a healthy heart is well within reach.”
Learn more about the cardiology services we offer at Mercy Health.