5 Common Heart Health Myths Debunked | 1MD Nutrition™

5 Common Heart Health Myths Debunked

Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States, so knowledge is power when it comes to supporting heart health. Here we debunk 5 common myths.

By Dr. Heather Shenkman

7 minute read

Last Updated October 5, 2021

5 Common Heart Myths Debunked

Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States, so knowledge is power when it comes to supporting heart health. Unfortunately, there are a lot of heart health myths out there that interfere with keeping you healthy. 

Myth 1: I Feel Great, so I Don’t Have High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, often causes no symptoms at all, even when it's very high. As a result, people may live with hypertension unknowingly for a long time. Nearly half of all adults in the US have hypertension (45%, or 108 million), and of those, only 24% have their blood pressure well controlled. 

Uncontrolled blood pressure is a significant risk factor for heart attack and stroke, but you can reduce your risk by controlling your blood pressure. A healthy lifestyle is the cornerstone of blood pressure control, including getting plenty of fruits and vegetables, regular exercise, and managing stress. 

However, for many people, medications can be important for controlling blood pressure. If you are not sure if your blood pressure is controlled, see your physician for an evaluation and make appropriate treatment recommendations. 

Myth 2: Coconut Oil Is Good for My Heart

It is a common misconception that coconut oil is heart-healthy because it contains medium-chain triglycerides, which are thought to have health benefits. Unfortunately, medium-chain triglycerides make up only a small amount of the fatty acids in coconut oil. The reality is that 90% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated, which is more than butter at 60% saturated fat. 

Coconut oil in wooden spoon

There is no data to support that coconut oil protects against heart disease. In fact, saturated fat has been shown to raise both HDL and LDL cholesterol levels more than other plant-based oils like olive or canola. As a result, coconut oil may actually increase the risk of heart disease. 

Myth 3: I Don’t Eat Red Meat So I Can't Have High Cholesterol

The consumption of red meat has become unpopular in recent decades as studies have demonstrated a link to increased risk of heart disease and cancers. However, you may not know that the amount of cholesterol in beef, chicken, and fish is quite similar. Further, processed foods and foods high in saturated fat (see above on coconut oil) can raise your cholesterol. So, even if you cut out red meat from your diet, you can still have very high cholesterol levels.

A plant-based diet with proteins coming from plant sources instead of animal sources, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and minimally or smartly processed foods works well to lower cholesterol levels. When plant proteins are substituted for animal proteins, LDL, Apo-b, and non-HDL cholesterol levels are reduced

Myth 4: A Keto Diet Will Help Me Lose Weight & Keep Me Healthy

Ketogenic diets were initially designed to reduce the risk of seizure in epileptic children. This high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet causes a metabolic state called ketosis, a response by the liver to produce ketones made from fatty acids. 

Many people find a ketogenic diet helpful in losing weight. Any diet that causes a caloric deficit will lead to weight loss, including ketogenic and other fad diets. Ketogenic diets, however, often are not ideal for heart health. With such a restriction on carbohydrates, people tend to stay away from healthy plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 

A ketogenic salad

Also, in search of the foods high in fat required by a ketogenic diet, people may load up on red meat, processed meat like bacon, and other animal products like dairy. These foods are high in saturated fats and cholesterol, increasing cholesterol and TMAO levels in the blood, which is known to increase the risk of heart disease. In addition, a ketogenic diet can predispose you to kidney stones, nutrient deficiencies, and constipation.

A healthy routine that you can maintain long-term, including a nutrient-rich diet and regular exercise, is the best way to safely lose weight and maintain overall health. 

Myth 5: I Vape, I Don’t Smoke, so My Heart Is Fine

Cigarette smoking is the chief cause of preventable disease and is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, so many mistakenly believe that vaping is not as harmful as smoking cigarettes. The truth is that vaping is dangerous for heart health. Compared to people who don’t vape, vapers have an increased risk of heart attack by 56% and risk of stroke by 30%.

Several aspects of heart health are affected by vaping. A recent study demonstrated that those who vape have higher cholesterol levels than those who do not. Additionally, the compounds in the liquid solution negatively affect normal blood clotting function and can stiffen the arteries, raising blood pressure. Quitting smoking and vaping is the most effective way to protect your heart. 

Support Your Heart Naturally

What is not a myth is that you can support heart health with several natural ingredients. While medications will be important for some people, there are advantages to including certain heart-healthy ingredients in your diet.

A man reaching to his vaping device

Patented ingredients like Bergavit®, which supports healthy blood lipid levels, and niacin, an essential vitamin that can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels work together to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and help promote arterial health, proper circulation, and healthy blood pressure. You can also support healthy cholesterol levels by including olive leaf and garlic bulb extract in your diet, both of which help equalize blood lipid levels for better arterial health and blood flow.

Blood sugar metabolism is also important for a healthy heart, and Cinsulin®, a patented cinnamon bark extract, can help you promote proper sugar metabolism, along with chromium, a mineral known to promote sugar absorption. In addition, natural ingredients like berberine bark extract can promote sugar uptake from the blood into the muscles for healthier blood vessels and overall heart function. 

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot of misinformation on heart health, and it’s often hard to determine what is fact and what is fiction. But, armed with the facts and health-boosting nutrients, you can live your life with confidence, happiness, and good heart health for years to come.

Dr. Heather Shenkman

Dr. Heather Shenkman is a board certified interventional cardiologist. She completed a six year program at Albany Medical College, graduating at the age of 23. She completed her residency at Henry Ford Hospital, cardiology fellowship at the University of Rochester, and interventional cardiology fellowship at the esteemed Tufts Medical Center in Boston.