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Heart health; There are many myths surrounding the health of your heart. Read on to see if you've got your finger on the pulse; THE FACTS VS THE FICTION.

Byline: Susan Griffin

Coronary heart disease is the country's leading killer

FALSE Dementia's overtaken coronary heart disease (CHD) as Britain's biggest killer but cardiovascular disease (CVD), the umbrella term for heart and circulatory diseases, still causes an average of 435 deaths every day.

CHD is the most common type of cardiovascular disease

TRUE In the UK, around 2.3 million people are living with CHD (when coronary arteries narrow due to a fatty build-up). It's responsible for nearly 70,000 deaths each year and although 60% living with CHD are male, it kills more than twice as many women in Britain as breast cancer.

Most deaths from CHD are caused by a heart attack

TRUE Each year, around 200,000 hospital visits in Britain are due to heart attacks but statistics are improving. Back in the 1960s, more than seven out of 10 heart attacks were fatal, now at least seven out of 10 people survive.

There's no difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest

FALSE A heart attack happens when there's a sudden loss of blood flow to a part of the heart muscle. A cardiac arrest happens when the heart stops pumping blood around the body. Although a heart attack can result in cardiac arrest, they are two different things.

You'd know if you were having a heart attack

FALSE Most people associate a heart attack with severe chest pain, "but there are lots of symptoms, such as pain that travels down your arms or to your jaw," says Philippa Hobson, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation. "You may feel light-headed, breathless and sick. If you suspect a heart attack, ring 999. The longer the delay, the more the damage."

You shouldn't exercise after a heart attack

FALSE The heart's a muscle that benefits from exercise so it's important to start exercising as soon as you can, but pace yourself and take medical advice, advises Hobson. "For most people, walking is fine to start with. Aim to do a total of 150 minutes a week at moderate intensity."

Cold weather can be detrimental to heart health

TRUE British Heart Foundation-funded research has revealed during cold spells of three days or more, heart attacks and strokes are almost twice as likely. "A drop in temperature causes arteries to constrict, which could raise blood pressure and pulse rate - putting additional strain on the heart," says Hobson.

Heart failure means the heart stops beating

FALSE Heart failure doesn't mean the heart stops, but it does need support to help it pump blood around the body. While it can't usually be cured, the symptoms can often be controlled.

Heart palpitations always suggest a severe problem

FALSE Pounding, fluttering or irregular heartbeats are normally harmless. NHS guidelines recommend seeing a GP if the palpitations last a long time, don't improve or get worse.

Your postcode can affect your heart health

TRUE An investigation into the effect of social inequalities on health between 2013 and 2015 revealed those in the poorest parts of the country were more likely to die prematurely (under75) from CVD than those living in the richest. The highest premature CVD death rates were in Glasgow and Manchester.

Coffee triggers heart disease

FALSE Research suggests a moderate consumption of coffee (four to five cups a day) shouldn't affect heart health, cholesterol levels or heart rhythm "but syrups, cream, and whole milk can affect your weight and cholesterol levels," warns Victoria Taylor, British Heart Foundation senior dietitian.

Red wine can boost the heart

TRUE In Sardinia, where the population lives significantly longer, locals drink wine that's said to have high levels of "artery-scrubbing" flavonoids. But despite the antioxidants in red wine, Taylor advises, "there are healthier ways to protect your heart". If you do drink, moderation is key. She adds: "No more than 14 units a week and have several drink-free days."

Heart disease is a new thing

FALSE Heart disease is thought to date back thousands of years. CT scans carried out on mummified corpses revealed 34% of them had atherosclerosis (arterial plaque) responsible for blood clots, heart attacks and strokes.

It's possible to die from a broken heart

TRUE Takotsubo syndrome can happen when someone experiences severe emotional distress. "The condition causes the heart muscle to weaken and balloon. This can cripple the heart's pumping ability and causes symptoms very similar to a heart attack," explains Maureen Talbot, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation. She adds: "A small minority of cases (about 4%) do die."

Time heals a "broken" heart

FALSE It was thought patients who survive "broken heart syndrome" make a swift and full recovery, but researchers have discovered resulting scar tissue reduces elasticity and prevents the heart from contracting properly so it will affect people for the rest of their lives.

You'd know if you had high blood pressure

FALSE High blood pressure's known as the silent killer as it's not usually something you notice or feel. It's thought around 16 million people in the UK have it but of those, seven million are untreated.

Man's best friend is good for the heart

TRUE A 12-year study in Sweden showed dog owners had a 33% reduction in the risk of death and 11% reduction in the risk of CVD compared to those who didn't own a dog. It's believed a dog increases physical activity and improves emotional and mental wellbeing.

Foods prevent heart disease

FALSE No foods can prevent heart disease, but a balanced diet helps reduce the risk of developing CVD. Pippa Campbell, Nutrition and Weight Loss Coach (pippacampbellhealth.com) recommends "vegetables, fruit, herbs and spices, pulses and healthy fats in nuts, seeds, avocados, fish, coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil".

Air pollution hurts the heart

TRUE Air pollution impacts cardiovascular health and contributes to an estimated 40,000 premature deaths in the UK each year. The World Health Organization compiled a list of 44 UK cities where the air's considered too dangerous to breathe. Glasgow was deemed the worst.

You're never too old to improve your heart health

TRUE An 18-year study of more than 24,000 adults showed any exercise carried out later in life is beneficial. Dr Sangeeta Lachman, a cardiologist who led the project, said, "elderly people should be encouraged to at least do low-intensity physical activities".

It's possible to check your heart age

TRUE Four in five people over 30 have a heart age older than their actual age, making them more susceptible to a heart attack or stroke. If you're 30-plus, take the short test on the British Heart Foundation website to find out what yours is.

Diabetes can double the risk of developing CVD

TRUE Diabetes causes high levels of glucose that can damage artery walls, making them more likely to develop fatty deposits. Approximately 3.6 million adults in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes (10% with Type 1 and 90% with Type 2). Around 1 million people are living with undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to being overweight and not exercising enough.

It's best to have heart surgery in the afternoon

TRUE During surgery, doctors stop the heart, including heart valve replacements, which puts the heart under stress as oxygen flow falls. Research suggests the heart's stronger in the afternoon (it's to do with our body clock) and therefore better equipped to cope with the trauma.

You'll only get heart disease if it runs in the family

FALSE There are many factors that contribute to heart disease, however, a family history of CVD does increase the risk. It's sometimes called a nonmodifiable risk factor, in other words a risk factor you can't change, but you can choose to lead a healthy lifestyle.

You're never too young to worry about heart disease

TRUE It's estimated at least 12 young people (aged under 35) die every week from an undiagnosed heart condition in the UK. It's also estimated nearly 30% of children in the UK are overweight or obese. Leading a healthy lifestyle early on reduces the risk of CVD later in life.

Daily aspirin use is linked to increased risk of bleeding

TRUE Around 40-60% of adults aged 75 or older in the US and Europe take daily aspirin or other antiplatelet drugs to prevent heart attacks or strokes, but research shows long-term daily use raises the risk of bleeding, particularly from the stomach, which is why heartburn drugs are also prescribed.

Being married helps prevent heart disease

TRUE A database of over 1 million patients revealed Britons living with any of the three biggest risk factors for heart disease - high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes - had higher survival rates if they were married. Researchers believe support offered by a spouse may be the key.

Smoking doesn't impact heart health

FALSE Up to 20,000 deaths from CVD are attributed to smoking but after one year of quitting your heart attack risk will have dropped by 50%. After 15 years, your heart attack risk is about the same as someone who's never smoked.

Visit bhf.org.uk for more information
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 27, 2018
Words:1513
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