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Heart Attack Myth Busters: June 27, 2012

Heart disease is the number one killer in this country, but experts believe fewer people might suffer a fatal attack if they knew the facts about heart health. 

It’s one of the harsh realities of heart disease.

“I’ve seen quite a few patients die because they did not seek medical care in a timely manner.  They ignore initial symptoms until they have a massive heart attack,” says Lee Memorial Health System cardiologist Dr. Murali Muppala.

Every year roughly 3/4 of a million Americans will suffer their first heart attack. Many of them never saw it coming. Truth is a lot of us don’t have the facts about heart health.

So we’re breaking heart attack myths, beginning with: Exercise always reduces heart attack risk.

“Exercise, to a certain extent, will decrease your risk factor because what it does is it decreases your cholesterol. But in strenuous exercise, it actually increases your heart attack risk,” says Dr. Muppala.

Another heart myth that deserves bunking: chest pains and shortness of breath are the only signs of a heart attack.  In fact, a common complaint is stomach distress.

“It could be belching in their stomach or a heaviness in a belly area associated with some nauseousness or sweating,” says Dr. Muppala.

Myth three is high cholesterol if the top cause of heart attack.

“More than half the time, people with heart attack, they do have normal cholesterol levels.  We do need to be aware of what are the other associated risk factors someone has.  Number 1 - family history.  There is a very high risk factor for someone to have premature heart attacks,” says Dr. Muppala.

One final myth: if you pass a stress test, you’re in the clear.

“In 25 percent of the times, it may not show you anything.  Still people can have significant blockages,” says Dr. Muppala.

While heart health guidelines provide a solid foundation, they are not foolproof.  So it’s important to know your personal risk factors, including family history, diabetes, cholesterol, and smoking.  And if you think your body is telling you something isn’t right…listen.