Myths about preventing heart disease
There are lots of things you can do to lower your risk for coronary artery disease. Good habits, such as eating right, getting regular exercise, and not smoking, all work for most people. But many of the things you may hear about really don't work. These include:
- Hormone therapy. Doctors used to think that hormone therapy could lower your risk of getting heart disease. But taking estrogen with or without progestin does not prevent heart disease. In fact, if you are 10 or more years past menopause, taking hormone therapy may raise your risk for heart disease.1
- Low-carbohydrate diets. These diets could cause serious medical problems, especially if you have heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.2 The American Dietetic Association and the American Heart Association do not recommend these diets.
- High-protein diets.These diets limit healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables. And they don't include essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The American Heart Association does not recommend high-protein diets.
- Vitamin B supplements. Vitamin B and folic acid supplements do not lower the risk of heart disease or stroke.3 Most doctors recommend that you get B vitamins from a balanced diet.
- Vitamin E supplements. Vitamin E is an antioxidant. Antioxidants may reduce the risk of heart disease. But the American Heart Association does not recommend taking vitamin E to reduce your risk. Instead, eat a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts.
You can read more about guidelines for heart-healthy eating that include foods that do lower your risk. Or you can follow tips for starting and staying with a hearty-healthy eating plan in:
It's important to talk with your doctor if you aren't sure about your risk for heart disease and the best ways you can lower it.
- Rossouw JE, et al. (2007). Postmenopausal hormone therapy and risk of cardiovascular disease by age and years since menopause. JAMA, 297(13): 1465–1477.
- Bravata DM, et al. (2003). Efficacy and safety of low-carbohydrate diets: A systematic review. JAMA, 289(14): 1837–1850.
- Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation (HOPE) 2 Investigators (2006). Homocysteine lowering with folic acid and B vitamins in vascular disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 354(15): 1567–1577.
Last Updated: May 19, 2008