Heart Health Fact or Fiction

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It’s still February (unfortunately for those of us who have been dealing with inclement winter weather), and until spring rears its lovely head, what better way to spend time than focusing on your health?

Recently, the Cleveland Clinic conducted a survey of 1,000 adult men and women as part of its “Love Your Heart” consumer education campaign in recognition of Heart Month. The survey revealed that many Americans are “misinformed” about heart health and about one-third aren’t doing a whole lot to prevent heart disease, including those with a family history of the disease.

Here’s what else the survey uncovered: Most Americans (70%) do not know all of the symptoms of heart disease. Only 30% knew that unusual fatigue, sleep problems, and jaw pain were signs of heart disease. The reality is that most of us get a “D” in heart health class. Surely we can do better! As with most matters concerning health, including diabetes, there is a lot of “fiction” out there along with “fact.” The same is true for heart health. Below are some statements about heart disease and heart health. Let’s see which ones are fact and which are fiction.

You’re more likely to die from cancer than from heart disease.
Answer: Fiction. Cancer gets a lot of press, and while it’s certainly a scary diagnosis, the fact is that heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the US. Cancer is the second leading cause of death, killing 575,000 people in this country in 2010. Heart disease kills about 600,000 people each year — that’s about 1 in every 4 deaths, according to the CDC.

Women’s heart attack symptoms may be different than men’s.
Answer: Fact. Think of a heart attack, and the image of a person clutching his chest in pain comes to mind. That may be the case for men, but women often don’t get the tremendous chest pressure. Instead, nausea, indigestion, and backaches are typical symptoms of a heart attack in women. Once again, familiarize yourself with the symptoms of a heart attack — it may just save your life.

Heart disease is more common only in people with Type 2 diabetes.
Answer: Fiction. People with Type 1 diabetes are 10 times more likely than people without diabetes to have heart disease. Heart disease and high blood pressure are concerns for those with Type 1 diabetes as well as those with Type 2 diabetes.

Physical inactivity doubles your risk for heart disease.
Answer: Fact. Being active is important for a number of reasons, including managing your blood glucose level and your weight. It’s also a key factor in fighting heart disease. Regular activity helps improve blood pressure and blood lipid levels, boosts the health of your blood vessels, and reduces inflammation in the body. Aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week can lower your risk of heart disease by 30%.

Eating whole-grain foods every day lowers your risk for heart disease.
Answer: Fact. While the goal is to aim for at least three servings of whole-grain foods every day (one serving is equal to 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice, 1 slice of 100% whole wheat bread, or 1 cup of whole grain cereal), some studies suggest that eating even one serving each day can protect your heart.

Waist size doesn’t matter when it comes to heart disease risk.
Answer: Fiction. Most people know that being overweight is a risk factor for many things, heart disease included. But what they may not realize is that waist size is more predictive of dying at a younger age from a heart attack. Weight matters, but your waist size may matter more. Women with a waist size greater than 35 inches and men with a waist size greater than 40 inches have a higher risk of having a heart attack or other types of heart trouble. Whittling your waist may be more important than what the scale is telling you.

Eating beans is a great way to help lower your cholesterol.
Answer: Fact. Beans aren’t exactly a glamorous or trendy food. Yet the lowly legume has a surprising ability to keep your heart in shape — along with your diabetes and your weight. Beans are full of a type of fiber that not only helps fill you up, but lowers cholesterol, too. And one study showed that beans helped lower blood pressure in people with Type 2 diabetes. Why not give a few meatless bean meals a try? Beans add variety, and they’re easy on your wallet, too.

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