Heart Disease Myths Busted

Dr. Tim Johnson exposed heart disease myths on "Good Morning America" today.

February is National Heart Month, a time to raise awareness about heart disease, which remains the leading cause of death for American men and women.

Ask yourself if you're taking care of your heart, and do not be fooled by these common myths.

Myth 1


If I exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle, I will not get heart disease. -- False

Eating healthy and exercising is a great start, but does not guarantee health.

Risk of heart disease increases with several uncontrollable factors: You are more at risk if you are a man, if you are older and if you have a genetic history of diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure.

It is important to follow up with your doctor at least once a year to test your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, even in your 20s.

If you are predisposed to high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you may need to take medication to prevent heart disease.

Myth 2


I won't have to worry about heart disease until I'm much older. -- False

Coronary artery disease can start to develop in our teenage years, and many of the bad habits we develop as young adults persist as we get older.

Children who are obese, have high blood pressure and a family history of heart disease are at higher risk.

Although rare, some children (usually due to genetic differences) can have unusually high cholesterol and thus an increased risk for heart disease.

Myth 3


A little bit of alcohol is good for the heart. -- True

Recent studies show a small amount of alcohol every day, such as one glass of wine or a little bit more, can actually be beneficial for the heart.

There is debate as to what type of alcohol is best. There are benefits associated with red wine, but other types may be beneficial as well.

Too much alcohol can pose problems though. Binge drinking on weekends, for example, can be very damaging to the heart. Alcohol in large amounts has a toxic effect on the heart muscle cells, and can lead to heart failure.

Myth 4


If I have two scrambled eggs for breakfast, I've already exceeded my daily recommended cholesterol intake. -- True.

A typical egg yolk has about 200 to 250 milligrams of cholesterol (of course, there is no cholesterol in egg whites). The recommended daily cholesterol intake, according to the American Heart Association, is 300 milligrams a day.

If you eat two egg yolks for breakfast, you are likely exceeding your daily recommended intake by more than one-third.

Even after eating just one egg yolk in the morning, it's likely you will need to restrict other animal fats from your diet for the rest of the day to keep within recommended levels.

Myth 5


My blood pressure can never be too low. -- False

In general, high blood pressure -- a risk factor for heart disease -- is so persistent that just getting blood pressure to normal levels doesn't happen very often.

For most people, low blood pressure is a healthy thing. However, in rare cases, when a person is ill or on blood-pressure-lowering medication, she can get truly low blood pressure, which can lead to fatigue, fainting and kidney dysfunction.

Myth 6


I'll know I'm having a heart attack because my chest and arm(s) will hurt. -- False

Although 60 percent to 90 percent of heart attacks have the common symptoms (chest pain, arm pain, etc.), 25 percent of heart attacks have either no signs or atypical signs associated with the incident. So-called "silent" heart attacks are more common in diabetics.

On average, about half of women will have traditional chest pain, and the other half show atypical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, fatigue and stomach upset.

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