Frequently-Asked Questions About Heart Disease
- If I already have heart disease, it is too late to reduce my risk for further problems.
- The last time my cholesterol level was tested, my healthcare provider told me it was within my goal. This means I do not have to worry about my cholesterol anymore. It also means I can stop taking my blood cholesterol lowering medicine.
- Eating less saturated fat is the best change in eating habits I can make to lower my cholesterol level.
- It is possible to avoid all fat in the foods I eat.
- If I am overweight, losing weight will help me lower my cholesterol level.
- Being physically active can make my heart healthier.
- High cholesterol and heart disease are mainly health issues for men.
- Lowering my cholesterol by eating healthy, being physically active, and taking medicine are the only ways to prevent heart disease.
Heart Disease IQ Answers
- If I already have heart disease, it is too late to reduce my risk for further problems. FALSE. Even if you already have heart disease, it’s not yet too late to prevent further damage to your heart. In fact, studies show that taking actions after a first heart attack to prevent a second one are very successful. You can prevent further damage by lowering your cholesterol, reducing your weight and blood pressure, and becoming physically active. But the most important action is, if you smoke cigarettes, quit smoking. These actions will reduce your risk of further heart problems.
- The last time my cholesterol level was tested, my healthcare provider told me it was within my goal. This means I do not have to worry about my cholesterol anymore. It also means I can stop taking my blood cholesterol lowering medicine. FALSE.
To keep your cholesterol level within your goal, you need to continue taking the positive steps that help you lower your cholesterol level.. And if you’re taking medicine to control your blood cholesterol level, you should continue taking it to maintain your health. If you don’t, your cholesterol is likely to return to its previous level.
- Eating less saturated fat is the best change in eating habits I can make to lower my cholesterol level. TRUE.
Saturated fats raise your blood cholesterol more than any other nutrient in foods. It is found in the greatest amounts in foods from animals, such as fatty cuts of meat, poultry with skin, whole-milk dairy foods (milk, cheese, yogurt), lard, and in some vegetable oils, like coconut and palm oils. These are sometimes used in commercial foods, like crackers, cookies, and snack foods. Trans fat is another type of fat that raises blood cholesterol levels. Trans fats are found in many margarines, vegetable shortening such as Crisco, fried foods like fast-food french fries, store-bought baked goods, and packaged cereals. If a product lists “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “vegetable shortening” on the label, you know it contains trans fat. The best way to reduce your blood cholesterol level is to choose foods low in saturated and trans fat. One way to do this is to get more of your calories from fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain products. These foods are naturally low in saturated, trans fat, and total fat.
- It is possible to avoid all fat in the foods I eat. FALSE.
It is nearly impossible to avoid all fats in foods. Plus, your body also needs a small amount of fat to do its function properly. Keep in mind that not all fat is unhealthy. However, it is true that some fats are better than others. Go light on the saturated and trans fats and make sure most of the fat you eat is unsaturated. These are healthier for your heart. Look for fats and oils that are unsaturated, either polyunsaturated (safflower, corn, sunflower and soybean oils) or monounsaturated (olive and canola oils). Unsaturated fats help to lower blood cholesterol when they are substituted for saturated fat. However, it’s still important to limit the total amount of fats and oils you eat, since even unsaturated fats are high in calories. One tablespoon of any oil, healthy or not, contains 120 calories.
- If I am overweight, losing weight will help me lower my cholesterol level. TRUE.
If you are overweight, losing even a little weight can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Two key steps to weight loss are to reduce your calorie intake (cutting back on fat will help) and to burn more calories by becoming more physically active.
- Being physically active can make my heart healthier. TRUE.
Regular physical activity may reduce problems from heart disease by lowering LDL levels, raising HDL (good cholesterol) levels, lowering blood pressure, lowering triglyceride levels, reducing excess weight, and improving the fitness of your heart and lungs. How is that for getting a lot of results from a few minutes of exercise?
- High cholesterol and heart disease are mainly health issues for men. FALSE.
High cholesterol and heart disease are as much a concern for women as men. More than half of the 105 million Americans with high blood cholesterol are women. High cholesterol is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease. Heart disease is the number one cause of death among women. It claims one woman’s life about every minute in the United States. That’s more lives than are claimed by the next seven causes of death combined.
- Lowering my cholesterol by eating healthy, being physically active, and taking medicine are the only ways to prevent heart disease. FALSE.
A high blood cholesterol level is only one of the many risk factors for heart disease. It’s also important to have well-controlled blood pressure and blood glucose, and to avoid smoking. These measures are just as important as lowering your blood cholesterol level.
HEART ATTACK WARNING SIGNS
A heart attack is a frightening event, and you probably don’t want to think about it. But if you learn the signs of heart attack and what steps to take, you can save a life—maybe your own. Many people think a heart attack is sudden and intense, like in a movie, where a person clutches his or her chest and falls over. The truth is that many heart attacks start slowly, as a mild pain or discomfort. If you feel such a symptom, you may not be sure what’s wrong. Your symptoms may even come and go. Even people who have had a heart attack may not recognize the symptoms of the next attack because the symptoms can be entirely different. So it is vital that everyone (men and women) learn the warning signs of a heart attack.
These include the following:
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve pain or discomfort in the center of the chest, which lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. This can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath. This often comes along with chest discomfort, but it can also occur before chest discomfort.
- Other symptoms. These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness
Learn the signs, but also remember:
Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, you should still get medical attention. Fast action can make all the difference in whether or not you survive. The sooner the artery can be reopened by medicine or other techniques, the more heart muscle can be saved. Plus, the more likely you are to survive and return to an active lifestyle.