woman with her hands in the shape of heart in front of her chest; heart health mistakes to avoid

Surprising heart health mistakes

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Are you making these mishaps with your heart health?

You know how to handle your heart, right? You don’t smoke, you go running, and you’re careful about what you eat. Both men and women might be surprised to know, though, that they still slip up when it comes to heart health — and most don’t even know it.

Some common mistakes include:

  • Avoiding hormone replacement therapy (HRT) — HRT is a controversial topic, particularly when it comes to women’s heart health. Recent research from the American College of Cardiology, however, shows that the use of HRT by post-menopausal women may be connected to lower risk of death and lower chance of plaque buildup.

“It’s important to be aware of your personal risk,” says Manavjot Sidhu, MD, medical director of cardiology administrative services at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. “So if you are a post-menopausal woman, talk to your doctor about whether it is right for you.”

  • Dismissing potential pregnancy-related heart issues — These heart disease concerns do not immediately go away when you give birth.

“Pregnancy-related heart disease can pop up as late as five months after pregnancy,” Dr. Sidhu says. Other conditions that occur during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, can be risk factors for heart issues later.”

  • Avoiding the erectile dysfunction (ED) discussion — Gentlemen, talking about ED may be uncomfortable, but the condition can be a sign that your blood vessels are not working correctly. ED has been connected to heart attack, stroke, and other problems related to cardiovascular disease, so if you notice a problem, speak up.

The heredity issue

One thing you absolutely shouldn’t ignore when it comes to your heart health is how it has affected your family in the past. It can be tempting to just brush off the heart health problems of loved ones since the perception is that you “can’t avoid them.” But what if that was not true?

Both genetic and environmental factors play a role in someone’s risk of heart disease. Typically, you can’t change genetic factors like sex, race, and family history of the conditions (especially whether or not you have immediate family members who have had heart disease or stroke).

Dr. Sidhu says being aware of these factors, you can work with your doctor to create a plan that minimizes your risk, focusing on environmental and lifestyle changes that are within your power to make.

Controllable risk factors for heart disease include:

  • Diet high in saturated and trans fat
  • Excess body fat
  • High cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking

Find out if you’re at risk for heart disease.