5 Myths about heart disease

5 Myths about heart disease by Dr. Madhu Sreedharan

Author: Dr. Madhu Sreedharan, Cardiologist

1.If you have Heart Disease, you need to take it easy !

For the vast majority of patients, being sedentary is not good. In fact being sedentary actually increases your mortality. Being active : Moderate to heavy physical activity for 30 – 45 minutes for atleast 5 days a week is recommended for most patients who have had a Heart Attack. This is to prevent them from having further events in the future, keeps you physically and mentally active and helps control Blood Pressure, Sugar, Cholesterol etc. 

The people who do need to take it easy are those who have had a large heart attack with reduction in heart function (those who have swelling of the legs, breathlessness on exertion and reduced Ejection Fraction on Echocardiogram). Also people with features of heart failure, significant valvular heart disease or heart muscle disease (Cardiomyopathies) should not do heavy physical work. This should be as per the advice of your cardiologist.


2.It is OK to have higher Blood Pressure when you are Older.

Blood Pressure increases with age due to stiffening of the Blood Vessels. This forces the heart to pump harder which increases heart muscle thickness and heart function becomes less effective. If not controlled high Blood Pressure can lead to Heart Attacks, Strokes, Kidney Failure or Heart Failure. It is another myth that people say that I had BP before but not now or that I can feel when my Blood Pressure is high. It is a `Silent Killer` and you would not know whether your Blood Pressure is high or not unless you check it. 

It needs to be controlled to less than 140 / 90 mm Hg (ideally less than 130 / 80 mm Hg) regardless of the age. Blood Pressure can not be cured – only controlled. If your BP is high it would remain high for the rest of your life – unless you lose weight or follow strict diet. The action of these medications is only for 18 – 24 hours and even if you stop it for a couple of days after taking it for years – Blood Pressure would be high on those days. So medicines have to be taken long term / life.


3.You can lower the risk of Heart Disease with Vitamins / Supplements.

There is absolutely no benefit it taking Vitamins / supplements. Trials conducted all over the world with various vitamins – Vitamin C, Anti-oxidant Vit E, Beta Carotene etc have shown no benefit. The American Heart Association has stated that there is no scientific evidence showing that these supplements prevent or treat heart disease. Eating variety of nutritious food, Fruits and vegetables – but not fruit supplements are protective to the Heart. 

4.Heart Disease is a man`s problem and women are not affected.

In the US, more women than men have died each year from Heart Disease since 1984. Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in women over 65 years just as it is leading cause of death in men. By retirement age, 70% of men and women have some form of cardiovascular disease – Heart attacks / strokes / heart failure / Blood Pressure predisposing to these illnesses. The risk continues to increase with age and by 80,  83% of men and an even higher percentage - 87% of women are affected.

Whether you are a man or a woman get your Blood Pressure, Cholesterol & Sugar checked periodically by your doctor and ensure that these are controlled. 


5.If you have Heart Disease, you should eat as little fat as possible

The type of fat is more important. Saturated Fat and Trans fat must be avoided altogether. Fried food – Chips, Samosa etc are best avoided. No Oil is good and you have to reduce the quantity of oil used in cooking as much as possible. Rotating the various types of oils is something that has been found to be good. Unsaturated fat in Vegetable Oils are beneficial and in fact Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish are protective and can actually lower the risk of heart disease. 

Low fat dairy products, fatty fish, nuts can be taken. If taking meat – avoid the fat & remove skin from poultry. In fact, Sugar is the new fat ! Reducing sugar and the total calories ingested is more important than reducing fat per se. Sweets, Fizzy drinks, Chocolate, pastries etc which are high in Sugars and calories are more dangerous to health than fat.

Common Myths About Heart Disease

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