Africans, regardless of nationality have a thriving culture of myths, misconceptions and misinformation about illness and disease. Let’s examine two misconceptions about heart disease or cardiovascular disease.
Misconception #1: I’m too young to worry about heart disease.
How you live now affects your risk for cardiovascular diseases later in life. As early as childhood and adolescence, plaque can start building up in the arteries and later lead to blocked arteries. Risk factors for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke are becoming more common at a younger age and so even if you’re less than 30 years of age, you can develop problems now that may not manifest until you’re well into your late 30s and 40s.
Black people are at significantly higher risk for cardiovascular disease at an earlier age than Caucasians for genetic reasons. However, your race and/or a history of sudden death or stroke in family members are things you cannot change.
Regardless of age, it’s never too late to make lifestyle changes that can modify the risk factors that are within your control:
- Eat a better diet, including reducing salt. Eat less fatty foods, more fresh fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods and fish.
- Exercise regularly – at least 30 minutes a day.
- Maintain a healthy weight – being overweight increases your risk of developing heart disease, heart attack or stroke.
- Learn healthy stress management techniques – the chemicals your body makes in response to stress harden your arteries rise and contribute to the development or worsening of heart disease. Regular exercise helps to reduce the effects of stress on the body by lowering cortisol, the stress hormone.
- Avoid tobacco smoke.
- If you drink, reduce your alcohol intake.
- If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, comply with your prescribed medications.
Misconception #2: You can lower your risk of heart attack or stroke with vitamins and supplements.
Clinical trials with anti-oxidant vitamins E, C, and beta-carotene have failed to confirm benefit in lowering heart disease risk. The American Heart Association has stated that there is no scientific evidence to justify using these vitamins to prevent or treat cardiovascular disease.
Clinical trials suggest however that omega-3 fatty acids may have benefits in terms of reducing death from all cardiovascular causes. It is believed that omega-3 fatty acids may help lower triglycerides and inflammation. It can be found naturally in oily fish.
An important fact to take note of is that for reasons not fully understood, the body absorbs and utilizes vitamins and minerals best when they are acquired naturally through foods you eat. To ensure you get the vitamins and minerals you need, rely less on supplements and eat a wide variety of nutritious foods of every color of the rainbow.