—Englewood Health’s chief of cardiology, Dr. Samuel Suede, dispels 10 common misconceptions about heart health.
Long before our modern understanding of cardiac health, the heart was considered to be the nucleus of emotion, intelligence and personality. As the decades have passed and our scientific understanding of the heart has evolved, physicians have become more adept at treating and diagnosing conditions of the heart. However, there is still much to learn about this mysterious organ and many, commonly-held beliefs about heart health that have become antiquated over time.
Samuel Suede, MD, is chief of cardiology at Englewood Health and a founding partner of Cardiovascular Associates of North Jersey. Dr. Suede has spent much of his career dispelling the misconceptions he hears from his patients and their families—making him the perfect person to speak with to illuminate the truth when it comes to matters of the heart.
Myth #1: If you work out regularly, you don’t need to be concerned about your heart health.
Truth: “Heart health is a combination of all your risk factors. You can work out every day and still have diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure—all major risk factors for heart disease. No one should take their heart for granted just because they are physically active.”
Myth #2: Limiting all cholesterol intake is good for your heart.
Truth: “When it comes to cholesterol, there is cholesterol that is good for your heart and cholesterol that is bad for your heart. For this reason, diets that limit your overallcholesterol levels are not effective. Good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL) protects you from cardiovascular disease, and bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) promotes the development of plaque in the heart and is a strong risk factor for cardiovascular disease. A proper diet includes maximizing HDL intake and minimizing LDL.”
Truth: “There is absolutely no data showing any of these supplements prevent heart disease. Because the supplement industry is not regulated by the FDA, they are not subject to scientifically-rigorous studies and therefore cannot prove their value. In recent years, there have been several, large-scale studies refuting the benefits these drugs claim to have on heart health.”
Myth #4: Heart disease is more of a men’s issue.
Truth: “For many years, heart disease was wrongly considered a men’s issue. Today, we know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women. After age 65, the risk of heart disease is the same for everyone, regardless of gender.”
Myth #5: Heart attacks only occur in the elderly.
Truth: “Your risk of heart disease does increase with age, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of young people who also suffer from heart attack and stroke, particularly when they have risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, tobacco use, obesity or a sedentary lifestyle. This is why young people need to see a doctor at least once a year to have comprehensive blood work done.”
Myth #6: If heart disease runs in your family, you can’t fight genetics with diet and exercise.
Truth: “Your genes are not your destiny. In 2016, there was a study in the New England Journal of Medicine looking at 55,685 people with varying degrees of risk factors for heart disease. Ultimately, the study concluded that those with the highest hereditary risk for heart disease were able to lower their risk of developing heart disease by halfthrough healthy lifestyle choices.”
Myth #7: Cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins will give you muscle pain, memory loss and diabetes.
Truth: “The bottom line on statins is that, in the right patient population, statins have been proven to prevent heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular deaths. For people with very high levels of cholesterol or people with a history of heart disease, statins are very important. While they do have side effects, like muscle cramps, they only occur in 7-8 percent of patients. Statins increase incidence of diabetes slightly, but the benefit of preventing death from heart attack or stroke far outweighs the very small increase in your chance of developing diabetes.”
Myth #8: Symptoms of heart attack are the same in men and women.
Truth: “They are different. Women tend to present with very atypical symptoms of heart attack. The classic symptoms most of us know are a crushing pain across the chest, shortness of breath and sweating. A woman who is having a heart attack might just feel jaw pain, fatigue, nausea or arm pain. That is why physicians must be very perceptive of these non-obvious symptoms, especially when our patient is female.”
Myth #9: If you have heart disease or a heart condition you should avoid exercise.
Truth: “Exercise is an essential ingredient in establishing a healthy heart, especially after a cardiac incident. It’s mostly a question of timing: how soon after a heart incident can you resume exercise? What kinds of exercise should you begin with? These are the kinds of questions you should discuss with your cardiologist.”
Myth #10: Once you have heart disease, it’s too late to do anything about it.
Truth: “Life expectancy continues to increase and the risk of dying from heart disease continue to decrease because we have such effective treatments available today. People with heart disease are living longer and longer—heart disease is no longer a death sentence.”