Despite the fact that pathologies that affect the heart and blood circulation are very prevalent, certain myths persist about them.

A man puts his hand to his chest during a heart attack.

Only during the past year 2017, more than 122,000 people died in Spain following cardiovascular disease. Likewise, this type of disease kills around 17.5 million people each year.

And, despite being one of the groups of diseases more studied, known, and prevalent, is still surrounded by a multitude of myths.

Today in ‘EL ESPAÑOL’ we analyze the 10 most widespread myths on cardiovascular disease in general, and on cardiac disorders in particular.

It does not affect young people

Although it is true that you are more likely to suffer from heart disease after the age of 65, it is known that between 4% and 10% of heart attacks occur in people under 45 years of age, especially in the case of men.

In fact, it is the lifestyle in childhood, adolescence and adulthood which increases or reduces risk to suffer such cardiac events: not exercising, a bad diet or exposure to toxins such as tobacco, alcohol or other drugs are the perfect bases to end up suffering a heart attack.

Avoid exercise

While it is true that high intensity exercises can be problematic after suffering a heart attack, stopping exercising altogether is counterproductive: Physical exercise helps to strengthen muscles, including the myocardium or heart muscle, while improving general blood flow.

During last August 2020, the European Society of Cardiology published several guidelines on exercise in patients with cardiovascular disease. The probability of exercise leading to a cardiac event is known to be extremely low, but it is also it is recommended to start exercising with caution: if you have always been inactive, or if you suffer from advanced heart disease, you have to start very little by little and always under medical supervision.

Drugs and diet

There are many patients who, after starting taking cholesterol medication, believe that they can “eat whatever they want”, since these medications will also lower their cholesterol. This is not only a myth, but a danger: a false sense of dietary security is produced that contradicts logic and scientific studies.

While it is true that cholesterol medication, such as statins, they block the body’s own production of cholesterol, they are not designed to block dietary cholesterol. Thus, they are not a drug whose objective is to counteract the effects of a bad diet, but rather a collaborator to reduce cardiovascular risk. Taking statins without eating a balanced diet is useless.

Genetic disease

There are actually cases of cardiovascular disease that are inherited, but this does not imply that the disease will always be suffered, but rather that there is an increased risk of suffering it.

Despite having certain genetic susceptibility, eating a good diet, not smoking, doing physical exercise, and controlling weight and blood pressure, among others lifestyle factors, can reduce and totally avoid disease despite the genetic load that may be possessed.

Vitamins and prevention

Another widespread myth is that taking vitamin supplements can help reduce the risk of heart disease. However, there is no evidence that this is so; and it is known that no supplement can replace a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Recently, during the past year 2018, a systemic review of 18 studies, with more than 2 million participants, looked for possible associations between taking multivitamin supplements and cardio or cerebrovascular disease. According to their findings, taking such supplementation had no effect on overall cardiovascular risk.

Give up smoking

The claim that there is no point in quitting if you’ve been smoking for decades is, again, a myth. The tobacco is the leading cause of known lung disease, and one of the leading causes of heart disease in general.

Just Quitting smoking is starting to substantially reduce the risk of suffering from any type of cardiovascular disease, regardless of how old you are or how long you have been smoking, as the National Institute on Aging of the United States well remembers.

Men only

The heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women. Only during the past year 2017, 24.2% of men and 21.8% of women died of CAD in the United States.

If, in addition, other vascular diseases such as cerebrovascular disease are taken into account (with very similar risk factors), the figures are almost equal: 28.7% of men and 28% of women they died of cardiac or cerebrovascular causes in that same year in the North American country.

Therefore, it is a myth and an error of concept to think that men are the only ones affected by this type of pathologyAlthough it is true that they tend to develop cardiovascular disease at an earlier age. However, women are the ones who tend to suffer from cerebrovascular diseases more frequently compared to men.

Heart attack

It is a myth, or rather a misconception, speak of cardiac arrest and heart attack or heart attack as if they were the same, but they are not, although one can lead to cause the other.

One heart attack It occurs when one of the coronary arteries, those responsible for transporting oxygenated blood to the heart muscle, is blocked. However, a cardiac arrest it is an “electrical problem” in the heart, which stops pumping blood effectively.

In fact, heart attacks are one of the main causes of cardiac arrest ultimately, but they are different events: during a heart attack you are likely to remain conscious, while during cardiac arrest you are not. But nevertheless, both cases are medical emergencies.

Coughing in a heart attack

Some articles have suggested that forceful coughing during a heart attack can save lives. But nevertheless, it is a distortion of a scientific article published more than 40 years ago, where it was suggested that patients who suffered a cardiac arrest during an arteriogram in a hospital and coughed every 1-3 seconds, remained conscious for an average of 39 seconds.

But nevertheless, there is no evidence that this technique works in an out-of-hospital setting, when a heart attack is suffered naturally and not induced by a medical process.

In any case, if a heart attack is suspected, it is priority to notify medical services immediately. There is no study to support what is known as “cough CPR.”

Avoid fats

Finally, another myth, or rather another misconception, is that people who have already suffered a cardiovascular event they should not take fat under any circumstances.

Again, this is a mistake, and while it is true that it is still recommended to reduce saturated fats and trans fats, it is known that unsaturated fats (such as omega-3s from fish, among others) have been shown to be a factor protector for cardiovascular health.

Likewise, various studies suggest that saturated fats would not be “bad fats”, but the problem would be the food from which they come these fats: butters, pastries, processed meat and other ultra-processed foods would be the real problem, and not the type of fat consumed as such.

Still, current guidelines still advise reducing saturated fat, but increasing consumption of unsaturated fats, or “good fats.” Therefore, Any type of fat should not be avoided, but knowing how to choose them correctly.