Nearly half of all adults in the United States have some type of cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association's "Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2019 Update” and published in the journal Circulation. With 121.5 million people affected, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the US.
At Cardiovascular Institute of America, cardiovascular specialist Dr. Muthu Velusamy and his team are passionate about preventing heart disease, if possible, and diagnosing and treating their patients at their Tampa and Lutz, Florida, offices who have developed it.
Unfortunately, though, myths and misconceptions often travel faster than accurate information, so the team is taking this opportunity to correct any wrong information you might have heard.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease is a catch-all term for a number of conditions affecting the heart, including:
- Blood vessel disease, such as coronary artery disease (CAD)
- Irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias)
- Congenital heart defects
- Heart muscle disease
- Heart valve disease
“Heart disease” is sometimes used interchangeably with “cardiovascular disease,” but the two aren’t identical. Cardiovascular disease generally involves atherosclerosis, a fatty plaque buildup in the blood vessels that may be caused and worsened by high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Heart disease encompasses many other problems that occur within the heart and not the supporting blood vessels.
Misconceptions about heart disease and the truth behind them
It’s easy to buy into widespread misconceptions about heart disease, but it’s dangerous to your health to do so. Here are some of the most common misconceptions, debunked by the facts.
Misconception #1: I’m not old enough for heart disease
FACT: Heart disease can strike any person at any age, and how you live in the present affects how good or bad your health will be in the future.
Even as early as childhood and adolescence, plaque can start building up in the arteries, making them stiffer, raising blood pressure, and leading to full-on clogs. One in three Americans has cardiovascular disease, and not all are senior citizens. We’re starting to see heart disease crop up in young and middle-aged people, especially now that obesity, type 2 diabetes, and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle are becoming more common at a younger age.
Misconception #2: I’d know if I had high blood pressure because I’d have warning signs
FACT: There’s a reason high blood pressure, the pressure the blood exerts on the artery walls, is called the “silent killer.” It’s because there are no symptoms until you hit a crisis, so you aren’t even aware you have a problem unless you routinely check your blood pressure, which most people don’t.
Checking your blood pressure periodically with a home device or at your doctor’s office is the best way to stay on top of the condition. Early treatment is key because, left untreated, high blood pressure leads to heart attack, stroke, kidney damage, and other serious health issues.
Misconception #3: I’ll know it if I’m having a heart attack because I’ll have chest pain
FACT: Well, maybe, maybe not. You see on TV all the time that someone having a heart attack grabs at their chest from the pain and collapses, but that isn’t how it always works in real life. Though chest pain or discomfort is common, a heart attack may cause more subtle symptoms, especially in women.
Some less well-known symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, and pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, one or both arms, or even your back. If you’re experiencing any of these, call 911 immediately.
Misconception #4: Heart disease runs in my family, so I can’t do anything to prevent it
FACT: Yes, people with a family history of heart disease are at increased risk, but you can take steps to dramatically reduce that risk. Stay physically active, control your cholesterol and sugar levels, eat a healthier and well-balanced diet, manage your blood pressure; maintain a healthy weight, and don’t smoke.
Misconception #5: My heart is beating really fast; I must be having a heart attack
Your heart rate is variable, speeding up during exercise or if you get excited, and slowing down when you’re sleeping. Generally, variation is normal and nothing to worry about, but sometimes, it can be a sign of an arrhythmia, an abnormal or irregular heartbeat. Though most arrhythmias are harmless, some impact how well the heart works and require treatment.
Want to learn more about the facts of heart disease? Need to see a specialist about a heart-related problem? Cardiovascular Institute of America can help. Call either office at 813-610-9510 to schedule a consultation, or book online with us today.