By Dr Helen Flaherty, Head of Health Promotion at Heart Research UK
With April Fool’s day upon us, sometimes it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction, so here are some common myth-busting tips surrounding heart health:
I need to avoid eating fat to be healthy
This is not true as fat provides the body with essential nutrients. Unsaturated fats slow down the build-up of plaque within the arteries and therefore reduce blood pressure. Examples of unsaturated fats are olives, avocados, salmon and nuts. Of course, eating too much of any fat would be unhealthy, therefore aim to consume fats in moderation.
Doing lots of cardio is the best way to lose weight
This is also false as weight loss is occurs when you burn more calories than you consume. Having more lean muscle mass helps your body burn more calories at rest. Therefore, in addition to a smart nutrition plan, a combination of both high-intensity cardio and strength-training is the best method to lose weight. UK physical activity guidelines suggest five 30-minute exercise sessions per week, with two of these focusing on resistance training (body weight exercises/lifting weights).
Drinking red wine will reduce my risk of heart disease
It is true that red wine contains some antioxidants that can help reduce blood pressure, simply because red wine is made from red grapes. There is no evidence that drinking red wine directly reduces your blood pressure, whereas there is lots of evidence directly linking alcohol consumption with increased blood pressure.
My stress is not serious enough to get help with
Stress symptoms can move quickly from acute to chronic if they are not managed. Stress hormones will affect how well a person functions in everyday life. They are shown to effect multiple physiological systems (the immune system, the cardiovascular system, the endocrine system, the gastrointestinal system). No stress symptom is too small to ask for help with.
My smoking won’t affect those around me
This is false, and even if you think you are being careful second-hand smoke is a real danger. Non-smokers that are exposed to smoke over a long period of time have a 25% – 30% increased risk of coronary heart disease.