Drink red wine, pop an aspirin and eat dark chocolate-that’s the way to heart health, right? Well, you might be wrong about that.
Lately in the media, the focus has been on gluten free products, to the detriment of overall health. As there are myriad myths about the gluten free diet, so there are with heart health. Here are top myths of heart health. I have quoted some of the most common myths from PBS.org You can read the full article here.
Which myths do you believe?
- Red Wine
There is no evidence that red wine is any better for your heart than any other alcohol.
It turns out that there’s no information to suggest that red wine is better than any other form of alcohol for your heart. There is information to show that moderate alcohol intake of any kind — red wine, white wine, beer or hard spirits — benefits patients in preventing heart disease. It does so by raising the good cholesterol, or HDL.
What exactly is a moderate amount of alcohol? A moderate amount is one drink a day for women, and two for men. But this is a guideline.
“The myth about red wine came from the so-called French paradox — that the French drink a lot of red wine and they have a relatively low instance of heart disease, despite the fact that they eat a lot of fat. People began to think maybe red wine was protecting them.
“At the end of the day, we don’t recommend taking up drinking to benefit your heart. But if you do drink a glass or two of alcohol per day, depending on your body mass, it can be a heart-healthy activity.”
2. Red Meat
Red meat is a source of saturated fat, and all other things being equal, saturated fat does tend to raise the bad cholesterol, LDL. And so it’s not a good thing.”
“However, we stress the importance of a diet we call, ‘no-fad.’ One of the most disturbing current trends promises that if you eat no meat and virtually no fat, you’ll become ‘heart attack proof.’ Our conclusions from the research out there is that this is just utter nonsense — that there are no ‘heart-attack-proof’ diets, that completely eliminating fat, including meat, does not have a convincing health benefit, and that in fact a balanced diet is best.
“We advocate what is called the Mediterranean diet — one that actually has quite a bit of fat — good fat like olive oil and canola oil, fats that contain polyunsaturated fatty acids and not a lot of trans fats. If someone promises you that a diet will melt away the plaque in your coronary, run as fast away from those diets as you can.
“Eating red meat in moderation is not a problem. It’s not good for your heart, but if you don’t exceed reasonable quantities — small amounts of red meat as part of a balanced diet — it is not something people need to avoid.”
The key is moderation in your diet.
“There is a little bit of evidence — and it’s not very strong — that dark chocolate is probably an OK food for the heart.” There’s even a small study that seems to indicate that dark chocolate might lower blood pressure a little bit. But the effects are very small, and all chocolate tends to have a fair amount of calories and a lot of sugar.”
“And so to call any chocolate a heart-healthy food is a mistake. This is another example, because it’s cutesy, because it’s newsy: Whenever one of these poor-quality studies comes out, they get latched upon by the media. But the truth is there are no randomized control trials of any quality on this subject.
4. An aspirin a day
Another long-standing myth is that it’s a good idea to take an aspirin a day for people who are at risk for heart disease. In fact, if you’re at low enough risk — if you’re an otherwise healthy 40- or 50-year-old man or woman — it actually increases your risk of adverse consequences, including bleeding into your brain and into your stomach. That’s because aspirin is an anticoagulant, it prevents clotting of the blood. And that is, of course, a benefit but it’s also a risk.
5. Stress testing and calcium testing
Having a stress test saved my husband’s life. But, he had symptoms of heart disease such as shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and fatigue. If you do not have any of these symptoms, these tests are often not necessary.
This is an often-unnecessary test in which a patient walks on a treadmill and has their electrocardiogram monitored so that the physician can look for changes that may be a consequence of not getting enough blood flow to the heart muscle. It’s a test that’s very commonly done in America millions of times each year, and many people are having them done who shouldn’t. In fact, we strongly discourage it in most cases unless the patient is having chest pain symptoms.
“The problem with it is that there are too many false positives and no evidence that screening people with stress testing actually improves their health. These tests often lead to an angiogram and ultimately, to unnecessary coronary interventions, like a stent. Why is this being done so much? Well I hate to be so cynical, but one of the reasons is that are certainly economic incentives for doctors to over-test. Some people have the test done simply because they tell their doctor they want to start an exercise program and their doctor will say, ‘OK, well let’s do a stress test on you.’ People should push back against those kinds of recommendations if they don’t have any of the symptoms of heart disease.”
Actually my doctor recommended Calcium testing (explained below), even though I don’t have any heart disease symptoms. I decided not to do it. There are too many tests these days with false positives, or findings that could be left alone. This leads to over treatment. As always, be informed and educated about your health.
This is another test commonly performed and widely advocated that we don’t recommend. People are put in a special kind of CT scan and their doctor looks for calcium in the coronaries of the heart. When you see calcium, it usually means there’s plaque in the coronaries, and physicians can then try to prevent heart disease. The problem is that we should be preventing people with risk factors whether or not they have calcium in their coronaries. And so essentially it doesn’t give us information that we can use productively to prevent people from dying or having a heart attack.
“Even though it may have some predictive value, it also can lead to more testing and some pretty significantly bad consequences. If a minor blockage is found, the temptation is often very high to do an angiography, to do a catheterization, and sometimes, even to put in a stent. There’s no evidence that if you take somebody who doesn’t have symptoms and do a heart catheterization, that anything you find will actually benefit the patient. And so it’s driving up health care costs. America spends more on health care than any other country by a factor of about two, and this is one of the reasons why.”
This one is most important of all:
6. Women don’t feel chest pain with heart attacks
This one is just pervasive. After a recent article in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association), this has been covered by the media a lot — that many women who have heart attacks don’t have chest pain. While that may be true for some women, it’s important to understand that the principal symptom of a heart attack in both men and women is chest pain. About 12 percent of women are more likely not to have chest pain during a heart attack, but that’s not a huge difference.
“Women may just have a shortness of breath or dizziness or pass out, but the same is true for a small percentage of men. Men and women are more alike than dissimilar. There are some differences, but they’re not as big as people may think. For heart attacks, the same advices should be given to both genders: If you have chest pain, if you have a sudden onset of severe shortness of breath, if you get dizzy, light-headed and sweaty all of a sudden, take it seriously, call 911 and get to the hospital — whether you’re a man or a woman.”
A woman I worked with had a heart attack right in front of me-she had classic symptoms: chest pain, sweating and she turned gray. I called 911, and fortunately, she survived. Don’t ignore symptoms-it’s better to be wrong than to die.
The key here is to use common sense with all of these myths. Everyone is different-and always consult your doctor if in doubt. Your heart will thank you!