Heart attack myths


April 9, 2012 9:44:08 AM PDT
Heart disease is the number one killer in America. Every year, 785,000 Americans have a first heart attack and another 470,000 Americans have a repeated heart attack. But there are a lot of myths when it comes to heart health.

Warren Yamarick is an avid runner and an E.R. doctor. He thought he was the picture of good health.

"My cholesterol was perfect," Yamarick, MD Emergency Physician said. "My blood pressure was perfect. I don't have diabetes. I don't smoke."

When he started having shortness of breath and fatigue, he chalked it up to his busy lifestyle.

"I worked too hard. I've been burning the candle at both ends," said Yamarick.

But when he went to see Doctor Steven Yakubov, tests showed he had an 80% blocked artery that could have led to a major heart attack.

"It was hard for me to believe that a guy in such great shape that takes such good care of himself, with very few risk factors, does have coronary disease," said Yakubov, MD.

Which leads to the first myth: Exercise of any kind reduces risk of heart attack. Strenuous exercise can lead to heart attack in high risk individuals. The number one cause of death among marathon runners is heart disease.

Myth number two: Chest pain and shortness of breath are the only signs of a heart attack.

"The most common complaint we get is 'I've been having gastrointestinal problems, or I've been burping or belching," said Yakubov.

Another myth: High cholesterol is the main cause. The reality? About half of people who suffer heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels.

Finally: If you passed the stess test, you're in the clear.

Exercise stress tests are only about 60% accurate, meaning they miss 40% of problems. Doctor Yamarick is doing well thanks to a heart stent. The proud dad even participated in a heart walk with his girls.

Another myth that recently circulated on the internet claimed that if patients are having a heart attack, deep, repeated coughing might save their life by squeezing their heart and helping it regain normal rhythm. Experts say there is no scientific evidence to support this theory. The best thing to do if you think you are having a heart attack is to call 911.