Common Myths

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Common Myths

Heart and Circulatory
Common Myths
Common Myths
Is what you think really true?
InteliHealth Medical Content

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Common Myths


1. "Hyper" people are more likely to have hypertension.

While stress causes a temporary rise in blood pressure, many calm, mellow people have high blood pressure while many "hyper" or jittery people do not. The "hyper" in hypertension (high blood pressure) refers not to personality but to excessive pressure placed on artery walls.

2. Beef raises cholesterol levels more than fowl.

Your cholesterol level is more dependent on the amount of saturated fat you eat than the amount of dietary cholesterol. In general, chicken and turkey have somewhat less saturated fat than beef. Some beef cuts are actually lower in fat than others and sometimes lower than certain chicken or turkey parts. If you want to eat beef, choose leaner cuts such as tenderloin, flank, top round, eye of round and top sirloin. But when possible, choose fish instead of beef or fowl. Fish is a better alternative because it has little saturated fat, and many types of fish are higher in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

3. All fiber helps to prevent heart disease.

There are two types of fiber and both are good for you. But only one helps to lower cholesterol — soluble fiber. Soluble fiber forms a gel in the intestines that binds bile acids so they are excreted through bowel movements instead of being absorbed into the bloodstream. Since bile acids are formed in the liver from cholesterol, the loss of bile acids in the stools forces the liver to convert more cholesterol to bile acids, thus lowering cholesterol levels. Good sources of soluble fiber are oat products, dried beans and peas, lentils, apples and citrus fruits. You should have at least 6.5 grams of soluble fiber each day.

The other fiber, insoluble fiber, is found in whole-grain foods, cereals and wheat bran. This fiber soaks up water like a sponge, adding bulk and preventing constipation by making it easier for the intestine to move waste matter along your digestive tract. While it's also part of a healthy diet, insoluble fiber doesn't lower cholesterol levels.

4. Sex is not recommended for people who have heart disease.

Sexual intercourse exerts about as much strain on the heart as walking briskly up a couple flights of stairs. So within a month or so after a heart attack or uncomplicated heart surgery, you should feel free to resume the same forms of lovemaking that you found pleasing before. Remember to take your time, however, and not feel pressured.

5. Vegetable oils are heart-healthy.

It all depends on how they are processed and the type of oil. When you see the words "hydrogenated vegetable oil" or "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" on food labels, it means that hydrogen is added to liquid, heart-healthier unsaturated fats to give them a firm texture. These converted oils are called trans fats and should not be part of anyone's diet. They raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol, thereby increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Use monounsaturated vegetable oils, such as olive and canola oils, as your first choice when cooking, making salad dressing and dipping bread. Polyunsaturated oils, like corn or safflower oils, also are reasonable.




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Last updated June 02, 2014

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