MYTH: If you exercise and eat right, you’re immune to heart disease
While it is true that all people can reduce their risk of heart disease, and that physical activity and nutritious food can help, it is also that true no one is completely immune. Some people, for instance, are genetically predisposed to heart problems.
There are people devoted to a healthy lifestyle. They exercise every day and keep their weight low – but they have a strong family history of heart disease and blockages. Even with the best lifestyle, genetics are important. This means that even healthy people should check if they have inherited any risk factors – but it doesn’t mean that efforts to keep fit and eat healthy should be discouraged.
It’s not a waste – it’s just not a guarantee, either.
MYTH: You don’t have to worry about heart disease if you’re young
While it’s true that several risk factors become more common as people age, it’s never too early (or too late) to take better care of your heart. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, nine in ten Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease or stroke – and those factors can be genetic or start relatively early in life.
If you smoke or drink, if you’re overweight or inactive, or if you have diabetes, high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol, then you have at least one of the risk factors.
It’s possible to be born with an abnormal heart structure, known by practitioners as congenital heart disease. Many of younger patients are being treated for cardiomyopathy, which may lead to an irregular heartbeat and – even among strapping young athletes – sudden death.
These differences are easy to detect with non-invasive equipment and can be very straightforward to treat – but it’s important to be aware of them early.
MYTH: There are universal rules for keeping your heart healthy
Different people need different remedies, so patients would do well to double-check any universal advice or home remedies they’ve taken for granted over the years.
Some patients believe they should be drinking gallons of water every day – but in some cases they actually need to restrict water. Moreover, while many patients need to reduce salt intake to fight hypertension, some with low blood pressure may actually benefit from adding a bit of salt to their diet. Some people ask doctors about home remedies – like eating an apple with a nail stuck in it to increase hemoglobin. Outlandish though some techniques may be, the explanations for them can seem plausible – there are no stupid questions. Plenty of patients start by saying: I’ve heard this, and I don’t know if it’s true. That’s good, because it’s better to have the conversation than not have it.
MYTH: You don’t have the right to ask questions or see your files
This myth is not medical, but can be just as crucial to good treatment. It’s important for patients to understand Canada’s health care system, and recognize that they do have options. Medical information belongs to patients, but sometimes they’re afraid to ask for it.
Patients have a right to see their results and have them explained.
A good doctor will patiently answer your questions, keep you well informed and help you navigate the system. Patients can also do their own research and seek care at any clinic or hospital, not just the one closest to their home. If they’re unsatisfied, there’s nothing stopping them from asking to be referred to a particular specialist and seek a different, perhaps more open style.
“I want to go from seeing statistics to seeing individuals"
Dr. Vladislav Ovchinnikov