Myths and facts about heart disease

Kelsey Seybold
Rohan Wagle, M.D., F.A.C.C.
Kelsey-Seybold Clinic – Tanglewood

It used to be rare for heart attacks to strike those under age 40 but not any longer, according to research presented in 2019 at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session. New data revealed that more heart attacks are striking at younger ages, making age another of the common misconceptions about heart disease.

“Young people can develop cardiovascular disease. Physicians are identifying more cases of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and unhealthy cholesterol among our younger patients,” says Rohan Wagle, M.D., F.A.C.C., a board-certified cardiologist at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic’s Tanglewood Clinic near the Galleria. “Being young can help reduce your risks, but not eliminate them.”

Dr. Wagle says heart disease kills more Americans each year than any other disease. Some of the myths about heart disease include:

  • I’d know if I had high cholesterol or high blood pressure.

Usually, neither produces noticeable early warning symptoms.

  • I’ve seen actors portray heart attacks in movies and TV, so I know what to watch for.

Although chest pains are rather common, a heart attack may cause subtle symptoms, such as shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, and discomfort in one or both arms.

  • Women don’t have to worry about heart disease.

False. More women die from heart disease every year than from breast cancer.

  • Heart attack symptoms are the same in men and women.

Women, more often than men, have less recognizable symptoms, such as abdominal pain, achiness in the jaw or back, nausea, shortness of breath, and tiredness.

  • Heart disease runs in my family. There’s nothing I can about it.

Regular exercise, healthy eating, weight management, controlling blood sugar (or glucose) and cholesterol, managing stress and blood pressure, and avoiding tobacco and substance abuse help reduce risks.

  • My family doesn’t have a history of heart disease, so I don’t have to worry about it.

Genetics sometimes plays a role in cardiovascular disease; however, heart disease is more often the result of harmful lifestyle choices.

“Set aside time for a checkup. Yearly wellness visits are important preventive care. It’s a chance for you and your doctor to review family history, chronic medical and surgical conditions, and current medications,” reminds Dr. Wagle.