You know your running routine helps protect your ticker. But are you guilty of believing these common heart myths?
Pay attention to those oats commercials: What you eat really can affect your heart. But according to a new survey from Cleveland Clinic, a surprising number of adults aren’t making that important link.
In the survey of 1,002 men and women ages 18 to 73, heart-related misconceptions turned out to be surprisingly common. That’s a problem, because that knowledge gap may make it more difficult for people to grasp how much their own habits are increasing their health risks, Steven Nissen, M.D., chair of cardiovascular medicine at Cleveland Clinic, told Runner’s World.
The survey found that 88 percent of respondents understand the connection between a healthy heart and maintaining a healthy weight. And about three-quarters are concerned about their own weight.
Yet when it comes to what people can actually do about it—say, changes like diet and exercise that can boost your heart health—not everyone has the facts.
In the survey, 18 percent believe diet has nothing to do with heart health, and 42 percent incorrectly believe that even if they’re overweight, as long as they exercise, their heart is completely in the clear.
When it comes to health risks of excess weight, 87 percent didn’t realize that obesity can be linked to cancer, and 80 percent didn’t know it could raise risk of atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat.
Metabolism is the most commonly cited culprit for excess weight, with 53 percent of respondents blaming the system for “working against them” when they’re trying to lose weight.
“Weight can be a complex issue and a sensitive one for many people,” Nissen said. “One problem is that a lot of misinformation about diet, wellness and exercise exists, and that has led to confusion. Because of this, many people may get frustrated with their efforts or not start a weight loss program in the first place.”
For example, he noted that nearly a third of respondents have tried to diet, but stuck with the effort for only a week or two. People also misunderstood how much weight loss is needed to improve heart health, he added, falsely believing that you need to lose large amounts of weight to see health gains.
“There is poor understanding of the relationship between body weight and health,” he said. “Unfortunately, many people seem paralyzed by this lack of knowledge. The positive news is that people only need to lose about 5 percent of body weight to see significant health impacts.”