Common Myths About Heart Disease


by the Go Red For Women Editors

“It’s a man’s disease.” “But I’m too young.” “Breast cancer is the real threat.” If you’ve heard or said any of this before, you’re not alone.

The real fact is, relying on these false assumptions can cost you your life. And for 19-year-old Regan Judd, it nearly did. “I kept thinking of my grandpa. But he was so much older than me that I just couldn’t grasp it.”

Who could blame her? The last thing a young, energetic college athlete has on her mind is contemplating open-heart surgery. But, a combination of family history and a heart murmur since birth meant a diagnosis of heart disease, despite her youth and active lifestyle.

It’s time to set the record straight and start thinking of this as a disease that doesn’t spare woman and children. Your health is non-negotiable; we need to separate fact from fiction so that together, we can stop this killer once and for all.

Myth: Heart disease is for men, and cancer is the real threat for women

Fact: Heart disease is a killer that strikes more women than men, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. While one in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, heart disease claims the lives of one in three. That’s roughly one death each minute.

Myth: Heart disease is for old people

Fact: Heart disease affects women of all ages.  For younger women, the combination of birth control pills and smoking boosts heart disease risks by 20 percent. And while the risks do increase with age, things like overeating and a sedentary lifestyle can cause plaque to accumulate and lead to clogged arteries later in life. But even if you lead a completely healthy lifestyle, being born with an underlying heart condition can be a risk factor.

Myth: Heart disease doesn’t affect women who are fit

Fact: Even if you’re a yoga-loving, marathon-running workout fiend, your risk for heart disease isn’t completely eliminated. Factors like cholesterol, eating habits and smoking can counterbalance your other healthy habits. You can be thin and have high cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends you start getting your cholesterol checked at age 20, or earlier, if your family has a history of heart disease. And while you’re at it, be sure to keep an eye on your blood pressure at your next check-up.

Myth: I don’t have any symptoms

Fact: Sixty-four percent of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms. Because these symptoms vary greatly between men and women, they’re often misunderstood. Media has conditioned us to believe that the telltale sign of a heart attack is extreme chest pain. But in reality, women are somewhat more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain. Other symptoms women should look out for are dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen and extreme fatigue.

Myth: Heart disease runs in my family, so there’s nothing I can do about it

Fact: Although women with a family history of heart disease are at higher risk, there’s plenty you can do to dramatically reduce it. Simply create an action plan to keep your heart healthy.

Because of healthy choices and knowing the signs, more than 670,000 of women have been saved from heart disease, and 300 fewer are dying per day. What’s stopping you from taking action?


  • Debbie Derryberry-Styles

    Quick update: My LAD stent was placed last February. I had a nuclear scan this past Friday expecting all to be ok and hopefully get myself off some of these medications. I have been complaining of extreme fatigue, unable to focus and was told my heart had a skip. I assumed it was from all the medications with the beta blocker being the biggest culprit. My blood pressure always runs low and is even more so with all these medications. So my plan was to pass the stress test and nuclear test, then I would be on the road to getting off of some meds. I was told I failed my stress test. I asked how did I fail the stress test…? I was on the tread mill for ten minutes and five seconds. Was told that most people don’t make it three minutes. Well the problem is that when I went for the second round of pictures after the tread mill and second round of dye, my blood pressure got to 133/74, heart rate of 151; however my ejection fraction only showed my heart working at 54%. I am now scheduled for another stent on Monday 8/25 to place a stent inside of my stent; restenosis. My physician also did what is now a trial test where they swab the inside of your cheeks. They are wanting to see if my metabolism rate is processing my medicines before they have time to work properly. I have lost three pounds, currently at 109 and it is not from not eating; but perhaps my body is putting all my energy towards my heart. I was told I am on the best of best as far as medicines go and they are still amazed at me and these problems. They told me I should be on the cover of all heart magazines. My condition is from pure genetics. Take time to learn your family history & take care of you.

  • Jack

    Just so you all know, ‘heart disease’ aka: Cardiac arrest affects men more than women.
    I don’t know where you got the myth that it affects more women than men, but it’s incorrect.
    Also, “it’s a man’s disease” is a strange way of putting it. That makes it sound like you’re saying “It’s unfair that only men can get this disease”
    Even if the disease affected more women than men, you could leave a link to something that proves this instead of just saying it’s so. You could also make a website called goredforpeople since it doesn’t only affect women, instead of goredforwomen.


      Actually per Mayo Clinic women do out number men with heart disease. It’s been labeled a “man’s disease” as women many times ignore their symptoms or attribute them to something else going on. The medical profession at one time (still?) overlooked women as having “heart disease” because women did not complain of the typical severe chest pain. Thus “it’s a man’s disease.” Not true, but the assumption was made. And as far as heart disease also being also known as cardiac arrest, that is untrue. Cardiac Arrest is when the heart stops, and yes, it may be due to heart disease (or Coronary Artery Disease or Atherosclerosis) but it is not the same. Hundreds of thousands of people thrive with Heart Disease and they do not have Cardiac Arrest.