High cholesterol affects as many as 93 million U.S. adults over the age of 20. (Source)
Though high cholesterol is a very common condition, but many people have misconceptions about it. Following are the top cholesterol myths & facts:
MYTHS & FACTS ABOUT CHOLESTEROL
Myth: I don’t need to get my cholesterol levels tested until I reach middle age.
Fact: As per the American Heart Association (AHA), one should get cholesterol levels tested once between the ages of nine & eleven years, and again between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one years for children & young adults even if they are without other risk factors or a family history of early heart disease. After age 20, you should get your cholesterol levels tested, and other risk factors examined every year.
Myth: I will know if I have high cholesterol
Fact: Elevated cholesterol levels initially cause no symptoms; they often remain undetected for a long time. For this reason, it is essential to check cholesterol levels regularly.
Many people don’t even realize that they have high cholesterol levels until they develop serious complications, such as heart attacks or strokes. For this reason, it’s important to check cholesterol levels regularly. If you’re age 20 years or older, ask your doctor if you should have routine cholesterol screening.
Myth: All types of cholesterol are bad
Fact: There are two MAIN types of cholesterol.
(i) Bad Cholesterol: Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Cholesterol is called the “bad” cholesterol. It makes up most of your body’s cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood can raise your risk for heart disease and stroke.
(ii) Good Cholesterol: High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) Cholesterol is the “good” kind of cholesterol. This kind absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to your liver. The liver then flushes it out from your body. High levels of HDL cholesterol help cut down on your risk for heart disease and stroke because it helps remove excess cholesterol out of the cells, including cells in the arteries.
(iii) Triglycerides: In addition to cholesterol, triglycerides are the most common type of fat present in your body. They not only come from food, but your body can also make them. They can build up within your artery walls and lead to the formation of plaque.
- With LDL, lower is better.
- The “good” kind of cholesterol is high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL takes away the “bad” LDL cholesterol from your arteries and sends it back to your liver, so LDL can be removed from your body. HDL may also help in removing cholesterol from plaque in your arteries. This explains why HDL is good for you.
Myth: Only overweight and obese people are likely to have high cholesterol levels.
Fact: Regardless of body type, one can have high cholesterol. Of course, being overweight or obese raises your risks of having high cholesterol levels. However, being thin doesn’t offer any greater protection.
Irrespective of your diet, weight, and level of physical activity, you must get your cholesterol levels examined regularly.
Myth: The cholesterol level is a consequence of physical activity level & diet.
Fact: Yes, physical activity & diet impact your cholesterol levels, but remember they are not the only factors. Being obese & overweight or getting older also affects your cholesterol levels. Also, some people are born with high cholesterol levels that they inherit from their parents.
Nevertheless, it’s necessary to eat a heart-healthy diet & do plenty of moderate-intensity physical activity regularly to lower the risks of heart attack or stroke.
Myth: If you are taking cholesterol medicines, you don’t have to make lifestyle & diet changes.
Fact: It’s necessary to take medicines exactly as prescribed by your doctor. But the best ways to decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke are to eat a heart-healthy diet & incorporate regular physical activity in your weekly routine. According to American Heart Association, get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise, or a combination of both, preferably spread tall over the week.
Myth: If the Nutrition Label displays no cholesterol, the food is heart-healthy.
Fact: Even “low fat” or “no cholesterol” foods can be high in other types of “bad” fats, like saturated and trans fats. Be sure to read the food label carefully & look for saturated fat, trans fat, and total calories. Also, keep in mind that the serving size that those numbers are based on is usually smaller than the entire package.
Myth: Switching from butter to margarine will help lower cholesterol.
Fact: Not necessarily. Butter is of course, high in saturated fat & contains some trans fat too, but then some types of margarine are even higher in both types of fat. Liquid or soft margarine in a tub tends to be lower in “bad” fats. Compare the Nutrition Facts labels and opt for those with zero grams of trans fat and no hydrogenated oils in the ingredients.
Myth: Children don’t have to worry about cholesterol.
Fact: Just like adults, children too can have high cholesterol levels. This is especially true for children who inherit high cholesterol levels from one or both parents, a medical condition known as familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). These children carry an increased risk for sudden heart attack or stroke. Early diagnosis & treatment is critical in such cases.
Read in this “Natural Cure Cholesterol Book” about the personal experience of a 69 years old man who has beaten heart disease, lives an active, independent life, and uses natural ways to keep his cholesterol under control: