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10 Heart Disease Myths You Shouldn’t Believe

Heart MythsEach year, heart disease kills more people in the United States than all types of cancer combined. Most of these deaths result from heart attack in people with coronary artery disease.

“As more and more people adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle and take medications to lower their heart attack risk, deaths from coronary artery disease are dropping,” says A. Marc Gillinov, MD.

Yet myths about heart disease and its prevention persist. Below, Dr. Gillinov corrects 10 common misconceptions.

Myth 1: You’ll only get heart disease if it runs in your family.

Genetics sometimes play a role in developing coronary artery disease. “However, 90 percent of heart disease results from harmful lifestyle choices, including poor diet, smoking and little or no exercise,” says Dr. Gillinov.

These harmful choices can raise the level of cholesterol and other harmful fats in your blood, increase your blood pressure and cause you to develop metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes—all of which raise the risk of heart disease.

“If you are genetically predisposed to high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, it is very important you follow a heart-healthy lifestyle and take medications to control these dangerous risk factors, and avoid or delay a heart attack,” says Dr. Gillinov.

Myth 2: Having enough good cholesterol can offset bad cholesterol.

“We used to think a large amount of good cholesterol would offset the impact of high bad cholesterol levels, but recent studies have shown this is not the case,” says Dr. Gillinov.

So instead of looking at total cholesterol, which includes both your “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, physicians now focus on LDL cholesterol.

Although a high HDL level is certainly good, it means your body may still be depositing cholesterol in your arteries, which can lead to heart attack, stroke and other problems, he explains.

Myth 3: You can lower a very high LDL cholesterol level through diet alone.