Coronary heart disease is the greatest single cause of death in Australia. Given its widespread nature, an astounding number of myths exist about the disease. Here are the facts. What is Heart Disease? Heart disease is an aspect of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which also includes stroke and blood vessel ailments. It accounts for around 38% of all deaths each year. Heart disease outcomes include heart attacks. Your doctor can help you measure if you are at risk of heart disease. Certain risk factors are: 鈥?Being aged over 65; 鈥?Smoking; 鈥?High blood pressure and cholesterol levels; 鈥?Diabetes; 鈥?A family history of Cardio Vascular Disease. However, there are still many unknowns. A person with no risk factors can develop the disease, while a less healthy person might live a long life. The National Heart Foundation 鈥檚 website is a great source of information about reducing the risks. A Range of Myths Myth #1: Heart Disease only affects Men Heart disease is the biggest killer of women in Australia. Four times the number of women die of heart disease than breast cancer each year. 鈥?It is thought that the hormone oestrogen acts to protect the heart. After menopause oestrogen levels drop, therefore increasing the risk of heart problems. 鈥?Consequently, women tend to develop the disease much later than men, up to ten years or more, often with more serious consequences. Many women ignore the possibility of heart disease, even if they demonstrate risk factors. 鈥?Ongoing studies have shown that the use of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) may increase risks of heart disease. 鈥?It is vital for post-menopausal women to be regularly checked for signs of heart disease. The Heart Foundation of Australia provides more information on the role of oestrogen in heart disease. Myth #2: Low Fat Diets and Exercise prevent Heart Disease The US National Institutes of Health monitored 49,000 people over 8 years, and found that those on a high fibre, low fat diet were just as prone to heart disease as people with a more unhealthy diet. 鈥?The fats found in lean meat, dairy foods, oily fish, nuts and avocados are good for you. 鈥?Even saturated fats help the body to process 鈥榟 ealthier 鈥?fats. 鈥?Trans fats are to be avoided, and are usually found in snack foods like chips. 鈥?There is mounting concern that high protein/low carbohydrate diets may also increase the risks of heart disease, as the intake of grains and vegetables is limited. Exercise certainly helps lower cholesterol and increase fitness. Even a small amount of moderate activity each day can improve your mood, lower blood pressure and increase well-being. 鈥?However, no matter what shape you 鈥檙 e in, you can still be at risk of heart disease. Even thin people who exercise have heart attacks. Myth #3: Broken Hearts don 鈥檛 Exist Many cardiologists believe that our mental and emotional state affect our heart 鈥檚 well-being. There have been several respected medical studies showing a direct link between a healthy emotional state and a healthy heart. 鈥?High stress levels, depression and social isolation may increase your risk of heart disease; 鈥?Increasing feelings of connectedness, community, loving and benevolence seem to profoundly reduce the risks. Myth #4: Heart Disease = Death Heart disease is not a death sentence. It is never too late to quit smoking, start exercising or watch your diet. Even people who 鈥檝 e had a heart attack can recover quickly, given the correct lifestyle adaptations. 鈥?A normal life, including sexual activity, is expected after recovery. 鈥?Around 35% of heart attack patients will never have another attack. The Most Dangerous Myth The idea that a heart attack is easy to recognise is hazardous. Once symptoms become apparent, such as crushing chest pain, it can be too late. Many people with heart disease experience no symptoms at all, or confuse the symptoms with other illnesses. 鈥?Chest pain or bad indigestion may be signs that a heart attack is in progress, not on its way. 鈥?If you are in any doubt about symptoms, see your doctor immediately. Monica Davidson writes for Australian health insurance provider ahm. For more about leading a healthy lifestyle, health insurance andhealth cover, visit the website.