Written by Heather Shenkman, MD, for 1MD
In the United States, so knowledge is power when it comes to longevity. Unfortunately, there are several heart health myths out there that interfere with keeping you healthy.
Myth 1: I Feel Great, So My Blood Pressure Is Fine
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, often causes no symptoms at all, even when it’s very high. As a result, people may live with unhealthy blood pressure levels for a long time. Nearly half of all adults in the US have hypertension, and of those only 24% have their blood pressure well controlled.
Uncontrolled blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke, but you can reduce your risks. Following a healthy lifestyle is the cornerstone of blood pressure control which includes eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, getting regular exercise, and managing stress.
Many people will also need medications to help control blood pressure. If you are not sure if your blood pressure levels are healthy, see your physician who can evaluate you and make appropriate recommendations for treatment.
Myth 2: Coconut Oil Is Good For My Heart
One of the most common misconceptions about heart health is that coconut oil is heart-healthy. It contains medium-chain triglycerides, which are thought to have health benefits. Unfortunately, medium-chain triglycerides make up only a small amount of the fatty acids in coconut oil and 90% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated, which is not heart-healthy.
There is no data to support that coconut oil protects against heart disease. However, there is evidence that saturated fat has been shown to raise both HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, more than other plant-based oils like olive or canola. This means that coconut oil may actually increase risk of heart disease.
Myth 3: You Only Get High Cholesterol From Eating Red Meat
As studies continue to show a link between eating red meat and increased risk of heart disease and cancers, consumption of red meat has decreased. People mistakenly think that switching to other meat like poultry can keep cholesterol levels maintained. However, the amount of cholesterol in beef and chicken are similar.
Even if you cut red meat from your diet, you can still have very high cholesterol levels. A plant-based diet, with proteins from plant sources instead of animal sources, and plenty of fruits and vegetables works well to lower cholesterol levels. When plant proteins are substituted for animal proteins, LDL, Apo-b, and non-HDL cholesterol levels are reduced.
Myth 4: A Keto Diet Will Help Me Lose Weight & Keep Me Healthy
Ketogenic diets were initially designed to reduce the risk of seizure in epileptic children. This high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet is popular among those looking to lose weight because it burns fat. Any diet causing a caloric deficit can help with weight loss but the contents of a ketogenic diet often are not ideal for heart health.
The restrictions on cars cause people to stay from healthy plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. People may also load up on red meat and other animal products like dairy to get the high fat content, but these foods are high in saturated fats and can increase cholesterol as well as the risk of heart disease.
Myth 5: I Vape, I Don’t Smoke, So My Heart Is Fine
Cigarette smoking is linked to increased risk of heart disease, so many mistakenly believe that vaping is not as harmful as smoking cigarettes. The truth is that vaping is dangerous for heart health, increasing the risk of heart attack by 56% and risk of stroke by 30%, as compared to non-vapers.
A recent study demonstrated that those who vape have higher cholesterol levels than those who do not and the compounds in the liquid solution negatively affect normal blood clotting function and can stiffen the arteries. Quitting both smoking and vaping is the most effective way to protect your heart.
What is not a myth, is the fact that you can support heart health with several natural ingredients. While medications will be important for some people, there are advantages to including certain heart healthy ingredients in your diet.
Patented ingredients like Bergavit® and the essential vitamin, niacin, can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels to reduce plaque buildup in the arteries. You can also support healthy cholesterol levels by including olive leaf and garlic bulb extract in your diet, both of which help equalize blood lipid levels for healthy circulation.
Blood sugar metabolism also affects heart health, so Cinsulin®, a patented cinnamon bark extract, can help you promote proper sugar metabolism, along with chromium, a mineral known to promote sugar absorption. Natural ingredients like berberine bark extract can also enhance sugar uptake from the blood into the muscles, for healthier blood vessels and overall heart function.
There’s a lot of misinformation on heart health, and often it’s hard to determine what is fact and what is fiction. Armed with the facts and health-boosting nutrients, you can live your life with confidence, happiness, and good heart health for years to come.