Myths about Cholesterol that May be Affecting Your Health
There are many myths out there about cholesterol. If you believe any of the following misconceptions and misinformation, you may be making uninformed choices that can sabotage your chances of lowering your cholesterol:
- Cholesterol Myth: I follow a good diet, so I don’t need to get tested for my cholesterol levels.
People who are overweight and consistently choose high-fat and processed foods (which are high in trans and saturated fats) may well have elevated levels of cholesterol. However, there are other risk factors to consider. People who eat well may also have heightened cholesterol ins some cases. You should be tested for cholesterol if you:
- Are older. Cholesterol levels may rise with age.
- Are a woman who has gone through menopause. Lowered estrogen levels after menopause have been linked to higher levels of bad cholesterol.
- Are a smoker, Smoking is a danger to heart health and may affect cholesterol levels.
- Are sedentary. Lack of exercise has a detrimental effect on cardiac health and cholesterol.
- Are someone whose family has a history of heart disease and/or high cholesterol. High cholesterol in some cases is genetically determined.
- Suffer from alcoholism. Alcoholism has been linked to heightened levels of triglycerides and heart disease. Getting a cholesterol profile can help determine if your heart is at risk.
- Cholesterol Myth: I’m young, so there is no need to worry about cholesterol.
Many risk factors affect cholesterol. A family history of heart disease, obesity, lack of exercise, and poor eating habits may cause even young adults to develop dangerously high cholesterol.
- Cholesterol Myth: I’m on cholesterol medication, so my cholesterol is decreasing.
Cholesterol medication should never be seen as an instant solution to high cholesterol. It is always meant to be used in conjunction with a healthy eating plan and heart-healthy lifestyle to achieve full effect.
In fact, many doctors will not even prescribe cholesterol-lowering medication unless a patient has tried to lower their cholesterol with healthy eating and exercise and has had no success with reduced cholesterol that way. Keep in mind that even the most potent cholesterol-lowering medications take several weeks to work and may lower cholesterol only by 20%. Plus, many of these strong drugs have unpleasant or even dangerous side effects.
For these reasons, diet and lifestyle should be your first defense against high cholesterol and medications should only be used to complement or supplement these positive changes in your life.
- Cholesterol Myth: Buying “low-fat” and “cholesterol-free” foods will help me keep my cholesterol down or will help me lower my cholesterol.
Many products labeled “cholesterol-free,” “light” or “fat free” are still high in trans and saturated fats or contain more fats than healthier food alternatives.
For example, it is possible that sandwich meats - a highly processed food - is labeled as “light” to suggest that it has less calories than the regular product, but this food is still likely to contain all sorts of unhealthy fats and ingredients that are unhealthy for your heart.
If you want to choose foods that are good for you, choose foods that are low in fats in general and foods that are low in trans, saturated and hydrogenated fats in particular. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, lean meats and fish is always healthier for you than eating processed foods that claim to be “light” or even “cholesterol-free.”
- Cholesterol Myth: Eating margarine instead of butter will lower your cholesterol.
All fats can contribute to raised cholesterol levels, and you especially need to be aware of saturated, trans, and hydrogenated fats. There are actually a number of margarines that contain these types of fats. To truly lower you cholesterol, you must decrease the total amounts of fat you eat and choose fats that are lower in trans and saturated fats.
Choosing margarine will not automatically help you lower your cholesterol. Choosing a margarine that is low in saturated and trans fats and is not hydrogenated - and then eating smaller quantities of that margarine - may be beneficial for your heart health and your cholesterol level. Choosing to use small quantities of very good extra virgin olive oil instead of margarine may be even better for your heart and cholesterol.
- Cholesterol Myth: High cholesterol only affects men.
Until menopause, it is true that women tend to have lower levels of bad cholesterol levels. However, women who have a number of cholesterol and heart disease risk factors (these include genetics, obesity, lack of exercise, poor food choices, smoking, and alcoholism) may still have levels of elevated cholesterol.
After menopause, women actually often experienced higher levels of bad cholesterol. In fact, many women who have experienced menopause find that they experience high levels of bad cholesterol that diet and exercise alone can’t fix. If you are a pre-menopausal women with risk factors for high cholesterol or heart disease, get a cholesterol profile done. After menopause, women should have their cholesterol levels checked regularly.
- Cholesterol Myth: Eating eggs is not bad for you because dietary cholesterol does not matter as much as people once thought.
This myth is both true and false. Eggs yolks contain high levels of dietary cholesterol, so that one egg contains about 213 milligrams of cholesterol (keep in mind that for most healthy people the limit for cholesterol consumption is about 300 milligrams daily). While it is true that more recent research has suggested that eating saturated fats does more to heighten bad cholesterol levels than dietary cholesterol, eating large quantities of dietary cholesterol is also damaging to cholesterol levels.
If your cholesterol levels are very high, your daily allotted intake of dietary intake may not allow you to eat even one egg a day. Even if you are generally healthy, if you wish to enjoy more eggs you will have to take extra caution to limit your levels of dietary cholesterol in your other foods.
In general, you do not want to think of foods as “bad” or “good”, as most foods can be part of your diet, however if you have high cholesterol, you will want to be careful about your consumption of eggs or switch to egg whites only.
- Cholesterol Myth: I feel healthy and my doctor has not brought up the subject of cholesterol with me, so I must have good cholesterol.
There are no physical signs of high cholesterol. Sadly, for too many people, the first sign of high cholesterol or heart problems is a heart attack or stroke. You need to take matters into your own hands and not rely on a doctor or any symptoms to determine your cholesterol level.
Instead, take steps to eat healthy foods and exercise no matter how healthy you think you may be and get your cholesterol tested if you have any risk factors associated with heightened cholesterol.
Click the following link to learn how you can lower cholesterol naturally.