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Cardiovascular Medicine, In the News, Public Health

Survey shows Americans need a refresher course on heart health

heart_shapeIs there a specific gene that helps determine your risk for heart disease? What are the signs and symptoms of a heart problem? Does fish oil help prevent heart disease?

If you find yourself baffled by these questions, you’re not alone. A recent survey conducted by the Cleveland Clinic found that many Americans are misinformed when it comes to heart health and, as a result, aren’t taking the steps necessary to guard off future heart problems. Health Day reports on the survey results:

Although 64 percent of Americans have heart disease or know someone who does, 70 percent of Americans are unaware of all the symptoms of the condition, the researchers found. Less than a third were able to identify unusual fatigue, sleep disturbances and jaw pain as a few of the possible signs of heart disease.

Meanwhile, Americans also have their vitamin facts wrong. Although there are no vitamins that can promote heart health, the survey found that 44 percent of Americans think vitamins can lower cholesterol and 61 percent wrongly believe that vitamins or supplements can help prevent heart disease.

Even fish oil supplements do little to prevent heart disease, the researchers said. Still, 55 percent of Americans believe taking the recommended daily dose of fish oil can ward off the condition. The researchers also cautioned that seafood could be just as high in cholesterol as red meat. The survey showed, however, that only 45 percent of Americans are aware of this.

Americans are also not up to speed on sources of sodium. When it comes to salt, about 32 percent of people wrongly believe that cheese is the biggest culprit, the survey found. Just 24 percent of Americans were aware that bread products typically have a higher salt content.

The survey also showed that almost 60 percent of Americans think there is a heart disease gene that helps determine their risk for the condition. Scientists have not yet identified any such gene.

In recognition of February being American Heart Health Month, Stanford Hospital & Clinics is issuing weekly challenges to help you take the first steps toward a lifetime of better heart health. Visit the hospital’s website and Facebook page or follow @StanfordHosp on Twitter to learn more about heart disease and ways to keep your heart healthy.

Previously: The exercise pill: A better prescription than drugs for patients with heart problems?, Heart attacks and chest pain: Understanding the signs in young women, Childhood obesity a risk for imminent heart problems, research shows, Ask Stanford Med: Answers to your questions about heart health and cardiovascular research and Ask Stanford Med: Cardiologist Jennifer Tremmel responds to questions on women’s heart health
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