Here are the answers to your pressing cardiac questions!
Q: Is it true my heart can get bigger and stronger?
A: Yes! Like Scrooge, your ticker can expand over time. Pretty amazingly, it can grow larger to accommodate new muscle. In other words, you’re not just toning your abs and arms at the gym, you’re also getting a buff heart.
Q: Will antioxidant tablets keep my heart healthy?
A: There’s no proof that antioxidant supplements offer any heart benefits, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Some studies even suggest that taking certain vitamins, such as beta-carotene, can damage your heart. Get your antioxidants from food sources such as blueberries, artichokes and kidney beans instead.
Q: Can smoking the occasional cigarette hurt my heart?
A: Even one little cigarette may be enough to narrow blood vessels and cut off blood flow to the heart. “Smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, as well as a range of cancers. There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco,” says Moise Muzigaba, public health officer at the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA. Nicotine can also increase blood pressure and up your chances of developing atherosclerosis – a build-up of fat in the arteries – regardless of whether you’re a once-in-a-while smoker or a two-packs-a-day addict. Bottom line: don’t smoke.
Q: Sometimes my heart flutters. Is this normal?
A: A healthy heart maintains a steady rhythm of 50 to 90 beats per minute (the average woman’s heart beats 35 million times a year), but outside stimuli such as alcohol, caffeine or certain cold meds can momentarily throw it off track. These blips are a fairly harmless form of an abnormal heartbeat, or arrhythmia. If you feel your heart fluttering often, or it’s accompanied by pain, shortness of breath or dizziness, call your doctor. A rapidly contracting heart might be a sign of a more serious arrhythmia or another medical problem.
Q: A lot of my older relatives have heart disease. Am I destined to get it too?
A: No. While genetics play a role in cardiac health, you’re largely in control of your heart’s future. The vast majority of heart-disease cases are completely preventable if you follow healthy lifestyle advice (like ours!).