One of the reasons that heart attacks claim so many lives is the many misconceptions surrounding what a heart attack is, what you should do in the event of a heart attack, and so on. There are certain myths that many accept as fact, despite efforts to better educate. These myths are dangerous due to the fact that they lend a false sense of security and may cause people to not seek treatment in the early stages of a heart attack.
Perhaps the most common misconception is the notion that all heart attacks are announced by sudden, acute chest pain or numbness in the arm. While it is true that chest pain and numbness are often signs of a heart attack, the truth is that heart attacks can have these symptoms or others, or no symptoms at all. The belief that all heart attacks are preceded by chest pain may cause an individual to ignore other, subtler signs of a heart attack. By doing so, they may wait too long to seek treatment, or not seek treatment at all.
Another persistent myth is that heart attacks can only happen to older people, especially those who may be overweight or otherwise unhealthy. Age, diet, weight and cholesterol levels certainly play a role in determining cardiac health, but the truth is that heart attacks can happen to anyone.
Healthy diet and regular physical activity greatly reduce the odds of having a heart attack, but no one is immune. The idea that heart attacks can’t happen to young people, or fit people, may cause warning signs to be overlooked.
On the other side of the spectrum are those who believe that a family history of heart disease means there is no preventative action. A history of heart disease increases the odds of having a heart attack, but it is far from the automatic death sentence some people believe it to be. Much of your risk factor for heart disease is genetic, but lifestyle plays a massive role in heart health. Those who mistakenly believe that heart disease is a forgone conclusion may make poor health decisions based on this belief.
The truth is that even if heart disease runs in your family, there are many things you can do to greatly reduce your chances of having a heart attack.
Another common misunderstanding is that heart attacks feel the same for men as they do for women. A woman looking for the symptoms commonly seen in men may miss the symptoms she did not know to look for. The fact is that heart attacks affect men and women differently. For instance, men are much more likely to experience the intense chest pain that is regularly associated with a heart attack, while women are more likely to experience a much milder pain. It is important to know what symptoms to be alert for, as early recognition may determine whether or not you survive a heart attack.
One of the most baseless beliefs about heart attacks is that coughing during a heart attack increases your chance of survival. This myth likely stems from the practice of coughing to restore rhythm in those experiencing an irregular heartbeat. While coughing can be helpful in reestablishing regular heart rhythm, coughing during a heart attack does nothing to increase your odds of surviving.