There are plenty of ways to protect your heart and prevent heart disease.
Heart disease is a common concern for both men and women in the United States, but it's not one single disease. The term refers to a group of heart conditions that occur when plaque builds up in the arteries, and just like with any health issue, learning the facts can help prevent it.
The most important heart health facts you should know are the risk factors for heart disease. If you know what they are and how to manage them, you can reduce your chances of developing the disease and maintain a healthy heart for years to come.
Heart Disease Risk Factors
Some risk factors like age, race, and family history are out of your control, but others can be managed with healthy lifestyle changes and regular doctor visits. Risk factors for heart disease include:
- High blood pressure, also known as hypertension
- High cholesterol
- Being physically inactive
- Being overweight
- Having diabetes
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Eating an unhealthy diet
If one or more of these factors apply to you, the best course of action is to visit your doctor and find out if you need additional support to help prevent heart disease. If you are a smoker or have diabetes, you can visit the Rite Aid Quit Smoking Solution Center or Rite Aid Diabetes Solution Center to get started on a specialized care plan or find resources and products to protect your health.
Separating Fiction from Facts
You've probably heard plenty of advice over the years about what you should and shouldn't eat or drink or do to protect yourself against heart disease. Just the quantity of information can feel overwhelming, so here are a few heart-healthy claims and facts that can help set the record straight.
Claim: Coconut oil is good for the heart because it raises HDL (good cholesterol) levels.
Fact: Coconut oil has not been scientifically proven to improve heart health. Evidence still points to the fact that since it's so high in saturated fat—about 90% saturated fat—it can raise your LDL (bad cholesterol levels), which may contribute to heart disease. Instead, use heart-healthy fats like olive and canola oil.
Claim: The only way to tell that you're having a heart attack is by experiencing chest pain.
Fiction: Chest pains are a common symptom of a heart attack, but not everyone experiences them. Some people, especially women, experience other symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea, backaches, and indigestion. Others feel pain in their jaw, neck, or arms. If you think you're having a heart attack, call emergency services immediately.
Claim: Smoking puts you at a higher risk for heart disease than being very physically inactive.
Fiction: While smoking is a risk factor for heart disease, and other conditions like cancer and diabetes, experts say that physical inactivity is a more significant risk. Try to fit in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week, but be sure to check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
Claim: You'll know when and if you have high blood pressure due to the symptoms.
Fiction: One reason high blood pressure can pose such a risk is that it often has no symptoms, and chronic high blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke, and even heart failure. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is for you or your doctor to check it regularly. If you are diagnosed, your doctor and Rite Aid Pharmacist can help you manage it.
Claim: Stress is linked to heart disease.
Fact: This claim is true—stress is linked to heart disease in many ways. For one, stress can raise your blood pressure and in extreme cases can lead to a heart attack. People often manage their stress in unhealthy ways such as overeating or drinking alcohol excessively. Finding healthy ways to manage your stress like exercise, meditation, and sufficient sleep can also help reduce your risk for heart disease.
For more heart-healthy tips and advice, visit the Rite Aid Heart Health Solution Center.
By Joelle Klein
American Heart Association, Top 10 Myths About Cardiovascular Disease
Diabetes Self-Management, Heart Health Fact or Fiction
Jonn Hopkins Medicine, 5 Heart Facts That May Surprise You
Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Heart Disease Facts
Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Know the Facts About Heart Disease
Harvard Health, Coconut Oil: Heart-Healthy or Just Hype?
Medline Plus, How to Prevent Heart DiseaseThe Facts and Fictions of Heart Health