Setting the Record Straight: Myths about Heart Health

By Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines 

How much do you really know about heart health? It seems there are a flurry of misconceptions and myths surrounding heart health and heart-healthy foods. 

Relying on false assumptions can be dangerous to your heart. Cardiovascular disease (heart disease) kills more Americans each year than any other disease. But you can boost your heart smarts by separating fact from fiction. Let’s set the record straight on some common myths about heart health and dive into the role a wholesome diet and exercise can play in keeping your heart healthy

“I’m too young to worry about heart disease.”

How you live now affects your risk for cardiovascular diseases later in life. As early as childhood and adolescence, plaque can start accumulating in the arteries and later lead to clogged arteries. 

One in three Americans has cardiovascular disease, but not all of them are senior citizens. Even young and middle-aged people can develop heart problems – especially now that obesity, type 2 diabetes and other risk factors are becoming more common at a younger age. 

Knowing that heart disease can affect people of all ages, it’s important to ensure you’re getting at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, no matter your age. Challenges such as Live Healthy Iowa are a great way to motivate yourself to stick to your activity goals, which is key to a lifetime of cardiovascular health. 

“Heart disease runs in my family, so there’s nothing I can do to prevent it.”

Although people with a family history of heart disease are at higher risk, you can take steps to dramatically reduce your risk. Create an action plan to keep your heart healthy by tackling these to-dos: get active, control cholesterol, eat better, manage blood pressure, maintain a healthy weight, control blood sugar and stop smoking.

When it comes to eating better, focusing on a wholesome diet that incorporates the five major food groups (protein, dairy, grains, fruits and vegetables) is key. 

“I’ve heard beef isn’t heart heathy.”

A serving of lean beef provides heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, the kinds that help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood. Today’s beef is learner and lower in saturated fat than ever. In fact, 69 percent of all beef muscle cuts sold in grocery stores are lean. 

Additionally, a 3-ounce serving of lean beef provides ten essential nutrients including zinc, iron and B vitamins. With 25 grams of high quality protein, a serving of lean beef is sure to leave you full and satisfied while supporting a wholesome, heart healthy diet. 

“I don’t need to have my cholesterol checked until I’m middle-aged.”

The American Heart Association recommends you start getting your cholesterol checked every five years starting at age 20. It’s a good idea to start having a cholesterol test even earlier if your family has a history of heart disease. Children in these families can have high cholesterol levels, putting them at increased risk for developing heart disease as adults. You can help yourself and your family by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

“It’s important to remember that even if you have heart disease, your lifestyle is a crucial part of your heart health,” says Dr. Eric Martin, cardiologist and director of prevention at Iowa Heart Center. “Exercising, eating a healthy diet containing fruits, vegetables and proteins, limiting processed foods, not smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke can go a long way toward heart disease prevention. It’s never too late to treat heart disease and control risk factors with small lifestyle changes.”

“I’ve heard eggs are high in cholesterol.”

Dietary cholesterol, found in all foods from animals, does not automatically raise your blood cholesterol levels. A wealth of research has shown that eggs do not have a significant impact on blood cholesterol levels as part of a healthful diet. 

One egg is packed with 6 grams of high-quality protein and contains key vitamins and minerals that contribute to good health. At only 70 calories, one egg provides all nine essential amino acids, making it a perfect protein. Eggs are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for normal body function and heart health.

If you’re looking for a new way to incorporate eggs into your diet, we love this “heart-check certified” stuffed pepper with quinoa and egg recipe from the American Egg Board and American Heart Association. 

“I’m not sure I’d know if I were having a heart attack”

Key warning signs of a heart attack include:

  • Chest discomfort – uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back;
  • Shortness of breath – may often occur with or before chest discomfort;
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body – this may be felt in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach;
  • Sweating, nausea or dizziness;
  • Women, the elderly or diabetics may be more likely to present with symptoms other than chest pain – such as shortness of breath, back pain, or nausea and vomiting.

If you believe you are having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately. If you are having symptoms and cannot call, have someone call for you or drive you to the hospital right away. NEVER DRIVE YOURSELF!

To learn more about heart health, reach out to the cardiovascular experts of Iowa Heart Center. They can help provide a seamless system of heart and vascular care to put you on the path to better health. To find a heart provider near you, visit

Source: American Heart Association