Heart attack myths busted

Heart disease is the number one killer in America. Every year, 785,000 Americans have a first heart attack, and another 470,000 have a repeated heart attack. There are a lot of myths when it comes to heart health.

Warren Yamarick is an avid runner and an ER doctor. He thought he was the picture of good health.

He says, "My cholesterol was perfect. My blood pressure was perfect. I don't have diabetes. I don't smoke."

So when he started having shortness of breath and fatigue, he chalked it up to his busy lifestyle. "I work too hard. I've been burning the candle at both ends,” says Yamarick.

But when he went to see his doctor, Dr. Steven Yakubov, tests showed he had an 80% blocked artery that could have led to a major heart attack.

Dr. Yakubov says, "It was hard for me to believe that a guy in such great shape and who takes such good care of himself, with very few risk factors, does have coronary disease."

Which leads to our first myth: Exercise of any kind reduces your risk of heart attack.

Strenuous exercise can lead to heart attack in high risk individuals. In fact, the number one cause of death among marathon runners is heart disease.

Myth number two: Chest pain and shortness of breath are the only signs of a heart attack.

"The most common complaint that we get is 'I’ve been having gastrointestinal problems’ or I’ve been burping or belching,’” says Dr. Yakubov.

Another myth: High cholesterol is the main cause.

The reality is about half of the people who suffer heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels.

Myth: If you passed your stress test, you're in the clear.

Those exercise stress tests are only about 60% accurate, meaning they miss 40% of problems.

Dr. Yamarick is doing well thanks to a heart stent. The proud dad even participated in a heart walk with his girls

Another myth that recently circulated on the internet claimed that if patients are having a heart attack, deep, repeated coughing might save their life by squeezing the heart and helping it regain normal rhythm. Experts say there is no scientific evidence to support this theory. The best thing to do if you think you are having a heart attack is to call 911.

RESEARCH SUMMARY

HEART DISEASE BACKGROUND: Heart and blood vessel disease - cardiovascular disease also called heart disease - includes numerous problems, many of which are related to a process called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition that develops when a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms, it can stop the blood flow. This can cause a heart attack or stroke. (www.heart.org)

SYMPTOMS: Symptoms tend to vary, but chest pain is the most common indicator that someone is having a heart attack. However this pain may move from the chest to the arms, shoulder, neck, teeth, jaw, belly area, or back.

The pain can be severe or mild. It can feel like:
* A tight band around the chest
* Bad indigestion
* Something heavy sitting on your chest
* Squeezing or heavy pressure

The pain usually lasts longer than 20 minutes. Rest and a medicine called nitroglycerin may not completely relieve the pain of a heart attack. Symptoms may also go away and come back. (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

LATEST BREAKTHROUGHS: People harbor wrong notions about heart disease and treatment, which can prove harmful to heart-health. Here are a few heart myths:

* Myth #1 "I am too young to worry about heart disease."
Truth: How you live now affects your risk for cardiovascular diseases later in life. As early as childhood and adolescence, plaque can start accumulating in the arteries and later lead to clogged arteries.

* Myth #2 "Heart disease runs in my family, so there's nothing I can do to prevent it."
Truth: Although people with a family history of heart disease are at higher risk, you can take steps to dramatically reduce your risk. Create an action plan to keep your heart healthy by tackling these to-dos: get active; control cholesterol; eat better; manage blood pressure; maintain a healthy weight; control blood sugar; and stop smoking.

* Myth #3 "I'll know when I'm having a heart attack because I'll have chest pain."
Truth: Not necessarily. Although it's common to have chest pain or discomfort, a heart attack may cause subtle symptoms. These include shortness of breath, nausea, feeling lightheaded, and pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the jaw, neck or back. Even if you're not sure it's a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately. Learn you risk of heart attack today! (www.heart.org)


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