What Is Your Heart Disease IQ?

Reviewed by Robert Ehrman, MD


1- If I already have heart disease, it is too late to reduce my risk for further problems.

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2-The last time my cholesterol level was tested, my health care provider told me it was close to my target. This means I do not have to worry about my cholesterol anymore. It also means I can stop taking my blood cholesterol lowering medicine.

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3- Eating less saturated fat is the best change in eating habits I can make to lower my cholesterol level.

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4- It is possible to avoid all fat in the foods I eat.

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5- If I am overweight, losing weight will help me lower my cholesterol level.

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6- Being physically active can make my heart healthier.

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7- High cholesterol and heart disease are mainly health issues for men.

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8- Lowering my cholesterol by eating healthy, being physically active and taking medicine are the only ways to prevent heart disease.

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Heart Disease IQ Answers

  1. False. Even if you already have heart disease, it’s not too late to prevent further damage to your heart. In fact, studies show that taking action after a first heart attack to prevent a second one is very successful. Lower your cholesterol, lower your weight and blood pressure and become physically active. If you’re a smoker, the most crucial thing to do is to quit. These actions will reduce your risk of further heart problems.
  2. False. To keep your cholesterol level close to your target, you need to continue with the positive steps that got your blood cholesterol down in the first place. And if you take medicine to control your blood cholesterol level, that means continuing to take the medicine. If you don’t, your cholesterol is likely to return to its previous level.
  3. True. The saturated fat you eat raises 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 and trans-fat and total fat.
  4. False. It is nearly impossible to avoid all fat in foods. Plus, your body needs a small amount of fat for a variety of your body’s functions. 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.
  5. True. If you are overweight, losing even a little weight can help to 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.
  6. 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’s that for getting a lot of results from a few minutes of exercise?
  7. 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, and 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!
  8. 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 a 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 a movie heart attack, where a person clutches their 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 even 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 feel 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, gets worse with physical activity (like walking up the stairs), 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 you survive a heart attack and how much damage is done. 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.

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