Common Myths About Heart Disease

Common Myths About Heart Disease In Women

“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 about heart disease, you’re not alone.

The real fact is, relying on these false assumptions can cost you your life. It’s time to set the record straight and start thinking of cardiovascular disease 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 the No. 1 killer of women once and for all.

Myth: Cancer is the real threat for women, not cardiovascular disease.

Fact: Cardiovascular disease is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. While one in 39 women in the U.S. dies from breast cancer each year, cardiovascular disease is the cause of one out of every three deaths. That’s roughly one death each minute.

Myth: Cardiovascular disease affects older people.

Fact: Cardiovascular disease affects women of all ages, even if you lead a healthy lifestyle. In addition to age, things that increase your risk of heart disease include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Eating too much, or eating unhealthy foods
  • Not being physically active
  • A family history of heart disease
  • Having a heart condition at birth

Myth: Cardiovascular 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 zero. Factors such as your cholesterol, eating habits and smoking can offset 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, so I must be fine.

Fact: Often, people do not have symptoms of heart disease until something serious happens. Many people do not know they have coronary heart disease until they have chest pain, blood flow to their heart is blocked causing a heart attack, or their heart suddenly stops working, known as cardiac arrest.

Because these symptoms may vary between men and women, they’re often misunderstood. The media has conditioned us to believe that the telltale sign of a heart attack is extreme chest pain. It is indeed the number-one heart attack symptom. However, women also may experience other symptoms in addition to chest pain, including:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea/vomiting 
  • Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
  • Fainting
  • Pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen
  • Back pain 
  • Jaw pain
  • Extreme fatigue

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

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

  • Getting more physically active.
  • Quitting tobacco use and avoiding secondhand smoke.
  • Adopting a healthier eating pattern.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Working with your health care team to manage your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Making healthy choices and knowing the signs and symptoms may make the difference between life and death. What’s stopping you from taking action?