Many believe due to their young age, they may not be at risk for a heart attack, but a new cautionary tale published in The New York Times may change many minds. The article’s author, Trymaine Lee, was physically fit and healthy at the age of 38 when we suffered a close to death experience — a “widowmaker” heart attack. ‘You hit the lottery,’ one of the cardiologists who saved my life told me,” wrote Lee, a nonsmoker with no family history of heart disease or early death now suffered one of the worst heart attacks. “The worst kind of lottery.”

Not only is it possible, but the article also showed evidence that younger people have had an increased heart attack rate. Over the 28,000 people hospitalized for heart attacks between the years of 1995 to 2014, 30% were adults between the ages of 35 and 54, which showed a 5% increase over that time in the number of cases of younger adults suffering from a heart attack. Here are some common myths about heart attacks and different ways to protect your body’s most vital organ.

Myth: If you have normal cholesterol levels, then you are not at risk for heart attack.

Truth: A national study of 136,905 people hospitalized for a heart attack found that about 50% of the participants had “optimal” levels of cholesterol, and most people had levels that fell within recommended values. The screening most people receive consists of a blood test called a “lipid profile” or “coronary risk panel,” which checks the total cholesterol levels, LDL, or bad cholesterol, levels, HDL, or good cholesterol, levels, and triglycerides.

Elevated levels of blood fat, called lipoproteins of Lp(a), cause a triple heart attack risk. High Lp(a) was the cause of Bob Harper, a fitness guru, “widowmaker” heart attack at the age of 52. This disorder was not confronted when he received his lipid panel/coronary risk panel since it does not measure the levels of LP(a) in your bloodstream. For only 20$, Harper was able to crack the mystery as to why he suffered from this deadly heart attack. This makes many wonder whether this was the cause of Lee’s young aged heart attack.

Myth: If there are any issues with your heart, it will be discovered during your annual physical.

Truth: Lee made it clear in his article that his physician never even mentioned cardiovascular disease during any of his annual appointments, so he didn’t care to worry about it. According to a recent study of 3,501 young heart attack survivors ages 18 to 55, all of the heart attack survivors had at least one significant risk factor, and more than half had more than two risk factors. The biggest issue is only half of the patients were aware they were at risk. Even less than half stated their physician had never mentioned their risk or discussed risk modifications, like quitting smoking or eating more plant-based foods, that could have prevented the heart attack!

Although Lee never mentions what techniques his physician used to evaluate his cardiovascular complications, most physicians usually use “risk calculators” to determine how likely their patients are to develop cardiovascular disease. Lately, there have been several studies that prove that these “risk calculators” are incredibly unreliable. For example, a 2015 study of more than 5,000 adults published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that almost all first cardiac episodes don’t occur in patients considered “high risk” based on the risk calculator. Lee is another example of this since he stated that he had no family history of heart problems, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes.

Unlike standard care, the Dr.Bob does not rely solely on risk factor analysis. Dr. Bob recommends testing patients for many of the most common red flags for heart disease or possible cardiac episodes like a heart attack. He also supports the use of advanced lab/imaging tests to check for the hidden signs of arterial disease and other disorders that may cause no symptoms until it’s too late.

Myth: Root canals are one of the leading causes of heart attacks.

Truth: Did you know that there is currently a video on Netflix stating this very myth, that root canals are the leading cause of heart attack? Though this video claims these things, it is all false! Not only did they state it was the leading cause, but also claims physicians advocate for the removal of any root canal treated teeth. Now we are not saying that Oral care and wellness are not crucial because it is. Your dentist may become your lifesaver since oral health plays an essential role in stroke and heart attack prevention.

In a recent study, there is proof that oral bacteria from gum disease is a major contributing factor in heart disease, but it may be treatable. Every dentist visit, have your dentist check for any signs of gum disease and discuss ways to prevent gum disease and improve your oral health. Gum disease affects about 50% of adults over the age of thirty. There are quite a few ways to test for oral pathogens or high-risk bacteria through DNA analysis. It is recommended to use OralDNA, OraVital, or Hain Diagnostics. It is also advised that any teeth that have experienced a root canal get checked using 3D imaging to make sure there are no infections that are not diagnosed or treated.

Myth: If you have a family history of heart disease, then there are no ways to prevent you from getting it.

Truth: Well, more than half of Americans carry genes that increase their risk for cardiac episodes. For example, 9P21, this gene represents heart attacks. It is recommended to use genetic testing to learn your genetic risk for cardiac events as well as a personalized plan to follow to help prevent and stabilize the gene. An example of a customized plan would be a dietary plan based on your DNA. There has even been research showing evidence that simple genetic testing and prevention plans based on your DNA can help with arterial difficulties like blockage, which can lead to a heart attack.

Overall, if you live a lifestyle that will keep you at optimal health, it can drastically reduce your risk for cardiac episodes even if you have the high-risk genes. In a study consisting of more than 500,000 people with genetic risk, those who got the most amount of exercise, whether it was a full aerobic workout or biking their risk for heart disease dropped by nearly 50%! There was also evidence that physical inactivity is responsible for prematurely killing 5.3 million people every year. It is advised to discuss ways to prevent heart disease and cardiac episodes with your physician, especially if you carry any high-risk genes.

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