Hogwash-O-MeterHeart disease. It’s scary, life changing and we don’t like to talk about it. But, with Kansas City’s heart disease death rate hovering at 170 deaths per 100,000 (that’s three more people than the total population of Blue Eye, MO, down by Branson), it’s a genuine health concern. But, what you don’t know can hurt you. Here, we clear up some common confusion about heart disease.

1. If I’ve had a heart attack, my chances of having a second one are low.

Actually, if you’ve had a heart attack you are a prime target for another one. A heart attack also increases your risk of heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart valve damage and suffering a stroke. Help prevent another heart attack by making healthy lifestyle changes and checking in with your cardiologist at least once a year. Of course, following their medical advice is a must.

2. High blood pressure is normal for older people.

It seems that everyone has high blood pressure these days. But, that doesn’t mean it’s the new normal. Chronic high blood pressure is a strong risk factor for heart disease. What’s scary is that most people with high blood pressure don’t have any symptoms. The only way to know your numbers is to have your blood pressure checked by your doctor at least once a year.

3. I’ve smoked for years. Stopping now won’t reduce my risk of heart disease.

It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve smoked, how old you are or how many cigarettes a day you smoke, the minute you quit the benefits of stopping kick in. Your heart attack risk drops by 50% just one year after you stop. In 10 years, it will be the same as if you never smoked a day in your life. Our next smoking cessation class starts April 6.

4. Heart disease is a man’s thing.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women. In Missouri, heart disease and stroke account for 31.7% of all female deaths. On average, that’s 24 deaths per day caused by heart attack and stroke. That makes it a woman’s thing, too.

While chest pain is still the primary symptom of a heart attack, women may experience other less common symptoms such as jaw pain, nausea, shortness of breath and fatigue. Stick with your annual physical and make sure your doctor checks your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and discusses ways for you to manage your risk factors. And, don’t be shy about sharing changes in your health. Even the slightest change can indicate a problem. Early diagnosis is essential to treating heart disease successfully.

5. I don’t have to worry about having a heart attack until after menopause.

Heart disease does not practice age discrimination or wait until menopause. It’s the third leading cause of death among women ages 25-44.

6. My risk for developing breast, uterine and ovarian cancer is greater than my chances of developing heart disease.

Almost twice as many women in the United States die from cardiovascular diseases than all forms of cancer combined, including breast cancer.

Test Your TickerHogwash aside, make it a point to get a physical every year. And, should your doctor recommend additional testing, don’t put it off. A heart disease diagnosis can turn your life upside down. But, the condition can be treated and managed, which means life goes on.

If you’re looking for a primary care doctor, let us help. Call 816.221.HEAL (4325). We also offer a quick (15 minutes), painless and affordable (just $50) Calcium Scoring Cardio Scan that scan can detect heart disease in its early stages, before you have any symptoms.