8 Myths About Heart Attacks

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Elizabeth Beasley on March 20, 2021
  • grandmother-with-grandchild
    Get the facts about heart attacks.
    The thought of having a heart attack can be scary, especially with so many heart attack myths out there to confuse you. One of the best ways to prevent a heart attack is to thoroughly understand heart attack risk factors and symptoms and be well informed. The more you know, the easier it is to take care of your heart or get medical attention quickly if you experience heart attack symptoms.
  • Exercising with chest pain
    Myth #1: A heart attack is the same as heart failure.
    A heart attack—or myocardial infarction—happens when blood flow is cut off from the heart abruptly. A blockage in at least one coronary artery is usually the cause. Heart failure is a bit different and develops after other heart conditions, like heart valve disease, weaken your heart to the extent that it doesn’t pump blood properly away from the heart. A heart attack can be one of the conditions that damage the heart and leads to heart failure.
  • Mature man running
    Myth #2: Heart attacks don’t happen to healthy people.
    One of the big causes of heart attacks is stress. This can be true even if you exercise every day. A British study showed that work-related stress is the biggest culprit. Employees who worked three or more hours of overtime each day increased their risk of heart problems. Exercising does help reduce stress, but it’s also helpful to find balance between work and play and to try to make your life as low-stress as possible.
  • Woman down
    Myth #3: Wait to see if your heart attack symptoms get worse before getting help.
    One of the most dangerous myths about heart attacks is that if you experience symptoms, you should wait to see if they get worse before calling an ambulance or having someone drive you to the hospital. Heart attacks happen quickly. Without prompt treatment, parts of the heart muscle will start to die because of reduced blood flow. If you experience even the smallest heart attack symptom, such as minor chest pain or upper body discomfort, don’t delay. Get medical help immediately. With heart attacks, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Man with chest pain
    Myth #4: Chest pain is the only way to know you’re having a heart attack.
    Many heart attacks don’t start with crushing chest pain like we see on TV and in movies. Heart attack symptoms are different for everyone and are sometimes as subtle as tingling in the arm, nausea, or indigestion. Women usually have different symptoms than men, like pain in the upper back, arms, or jaw, and excessive fatigue. Some people don’t even know they’ve had a heart attack until after it’s over. It’s important to educate yourself about the symptoms for men and women so you can recognize them and get medical help quickly.
  • Seniors smiling
    Myth #5: Heart attacks are more likely to happen to men.
    You may be surprised to learn that heart disease is the leading killer for both men and women. Since heart attack symptoms differ for men and women, it’s essential to monitor your heart health with your doctor and know the unique symptoms for your gender. Also, as women age, their risk for heart disease is greater than their male counterparts. So it’s smart for everyone to be on the lookout for heart attack symptoms and learn about prevention.
  • Mature couple jogging
    Myth #6: You can’t exercise after a heart attack.
    The truth is that exercising is a great way to prevent future heart attacks. Moving your body helps lower your blood pressure and improves your circulation. After a heart attack, you should ease into exercising by only doing a few minutes of activity a day and work up to 30 minutes a day. Doctors usually recommend aerobic activity, like walking or biking, because it gets your blood pumping. However, you may need to avoid isometric activity, like weight lifting, because it can cause a spike in blood pressure. Ask your doctor about the best exercise plan for you.
  • Older businesswoman
    Myth #7: Heart attacks only happen to old people.
    More heart attacks do happen to elderly people, but this isn’t a natural part of the aging process. Like younger people, older people can help prevent heart attacks by eating a heart healthy diet and exercising. Also, some heart attacks are the result of hereditary heart disease and can happen at any age. Because a heart attack can happen to anyone at anytime, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your heart health during your annual physical exams.
  • Heart image
    Myth #8: Heart attacks always kill.
    One of the most frightening myths about heart attacks is that they will kill you. The truth is that having a heart attack will definitely damage your heart and could shorten your life. But many heart patients work with their cardiologist to change their diet, exercise habits, and lifestyle to protect their heart and prevent future heart attacks. It’s possible to live a long, healthy life after experiencing a heart attack if you work extra hard to keep your heart in good shape.
Know the Truth About These 8 Heart Attack Myths

About The Author

Elizabeth has been writing for Healthgrades since 2014 and specializes in articles about alternative and complementary therapies like meditation, yoga, energy work and aromatherapy. She also performs improv comedy and is a firm believer that laughter really is the best medicine.
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Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 20
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.