Slam-dunk your low-dose aspirin in the trash can. (Huh?) Load your plate with French fries, chicken nuggets and other deep-fried disasters. (You’re kiddin’ me.) Quit cholesterol-clobbering statins ‘cause you’re putting on a few pounds and worried about diabetes. (Whoa, Nelly!) We YOU Docs (and you) know these choices are no way to romance your ticker.
But just in time for Valentine’s Day, the media is bombarding you with crazy advice. And you may be tempted to haul out the deep fryer after reading this headline: “Fried Food ‘Not Heart Disease Risk.’” Or to stop taking aspirin and quit refilling your cholesterol-drug prescription on the strength of reports like “Alarming Study on Daily Aspirin Use” and “Do Statins Cause Diabetes?”
Your heart deserves better. While you’re nibbling a little artery-relaxing dark chocolate and nuzzling with your sweetheart (yup, affection and sizzling intimacy are great for your heart!) in honor of Cupid’s favorite day, let the YOU Docs help you bust four big heart-health myths. That amazing, muscular pump that keeps thumpin’ 24-7 will say thanks — and so will the people who love you.
Myth No. 1: Aspirin’s a dud — and too dangerous to mess with. A new British study of more than 100,000 people says that low-dose aspirin is less beneficial than previously thought and that the risk (digestive-system bleeding) is greater. People in the study who took one low-dose tablet daily were 10 per cent less likely to have a heart event — and 20 per cent less likely to have a nonfatal heart attack. But their risk for gastrointestinal bleeding was increased by a whopping 30 per cent. Truth: We YOU Docs have long said one’s not enough. Taking two low-dose aspirin a day — that’s 162 milligrams — with half a glass of warm water before and after slashes men’s heart-attack risk and women’s stroke risk 34 per cent. (It lowers the risk for several cancers too.) Warm water dissolves the pill faster, eliminating 70 per cent of aspirin’s gut attack, which comes from an undissolved tablet resting against your stomach lining. Aspirin’s not for everybody, so talk with your doc first. And if you notice a gnawing sensation or any digestion differences, call your doc, pronto.
Myth No. 2: Fried food is fine. A new Spanish study finds that fried-food lovers who used olive or sunflower oil had no extra heart disease risk. But don’t fire up the grease quite yet! Truth: Foods fried — even in heart-friendly oils like olive, safflower and macadamia nut (in pilot studies) — are still packed with calories; we believe that broiling fish or chicken and steaming veggies (and topping ‘em with a drizzle of olive oil) is much better for your heart. Frying drives oil into food — and the extra calories can pack fat onto you.
Myth No. 3: Statins are too risky. Slender, post-menopausal women who took cholesterol-lowering statin drugs were 50 per cent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in a new Mayo Clinic study. But that doesn’t mean quitting statins is a good idea. Truth: Overall diabetes risk remained pretty low for these women. If you’re taking a statin, keep it up. These drugs rein in high LDL cholesterol and cool off chronic, bodywide inflammation — protecting your brain as well as your heart. There’s some evidence statin users have lower risk for dementia. Better to change your lifestyle to decrease your diabetes risk (you know the drill; walk, manage your stress, avoid the five food felons), and stay with your statin.
Myth No. 4: Don’t sweat the small stuff. If your LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, or blood sugar are “a little” high, but your doctor says your 10-year risk for heart trouble is low, then you’re in the clear, right? Wrong. Truth: These “little” problems will increase your odds for a heart attack 10- to 18-fold in the next three to four decades. They double or even quadruple your stroke risk. Up with LDL, blood glucose and blood pressure, and down with HDL? You’ve got “major agers” that add years to your RealAge. The good news? You’ve got the power to make your ticker feel — and act — young again.
The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz, host of The Dr. Oz Show and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic, are authors of YOU: Losing Weight.