Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the blood and in every cell in the body. There are two ways in which we get cholesterol. The liver produces most of the cholesterol found in our bodies. The other source of cholesterol is the fat in foods that we eat.
When you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it can lead to plaque buildup inside your arteries. High cholesterol is a major risk factor for many life-threatening diseases, including heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. You probably already know that high cholesterol negatively impacts your health. Let’s take a look at five common misconceptions about cholesterol.
Misconception #1: All cholesterol is bad cholesterol
Not all cholesterol is equal. There are two main categories of cholesterol: dietary cholesterol, which comes from the foods we eat, and serum cholesterol which is produced in the liver. Our bodies need cholesterol. In fact, it is present in every single cell in your body and helps with digestion, producing hormones, and generating vitamin D.
There are two main types of cholesterol in the body: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), known as “bad cholesterol,” and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as “good cholesterol”. When LDL levels get too high, it can lead to plaque buildup on the inner walls of arteries, and eventually heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.
However, higher levels of HDL are a good thing. The “good” kind of cholesterol brings fatty deposits to the liver, where it is disposed of. Ideally, in a healthy adult, the total cholesterol level should be under 200 mg/dL, LDL cholesterol should be under 100 mg/dL, and HDL should be above 60 mg/dL.
Misconception #2: Only adults are in danger of having high cholesterol
High cholesterol is not always caused by lifestyle factors; it can be hereditary too. Familial hypercholesterolemia is a genetic disorder in which the body is unable to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood. If you have this condition, there is a 50 percent chance that your child will inherit it.
Children with familial hypercholesterolemia are at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Even young children without genetic predispositions to high cholesterol can be at risk if they are not exposed to healthy lifestyle choices. Studies show that plaque buildup can begin in early childhood, so it’s important to encourage physical activity and a healthy diet and to discourage unhealthy habits such as smoking.
Misconception #3: If you exercise and eat healthily, you don’t need to have your cholesterol levels checked
Unfortunately, we don’t always have full control over our cholesterol levels. There is a hereditary factor when it comes to high cholesterol — some people just produce more cholesterol than others.
Eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular physical activity is important for everyone, but so is having your cholesterol levels checked. Starting from age 20, you should have your cholesterol and other risk factors checked every four to six years.
Misconception #4: Thin people don’t have to worry about having high cholesterol
It’s true that obesity and being overweight raises your risk of having high cholesterol, but that doesn’t mean thin people can’t have high cholesterol as well. We already know that genetics play a role in cholesterol levels, so thin people are not off the hook.
In fact, people with slim body types may be less aware that the foods they eat with trans and saturated fats are taking a toll on their health. These unhealthy foods may not cause them to become overweight, but they can still lead to high cholesterol levels.
Misconception #5: If you take medication for high cholesterol, you don’t need to worry about making lifestyle changes
Some people may need to go on medication to control cholesterol levels. It’s important to keep in mind that just because the medication reduces cholesterol, it does not mean that you can abandon your responsibilities to live a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Eat a heart-healthy diet, which includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, lean protein, and omega-3-rich fish. Exercise for 45 minutes three to four times a week. In addition, you should quit smoking and limit your alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
In conclusion, if you have high cholesterol levels, it’s important to do everything in power to get them down. Cut out processed, refined, and artificial foods from your diet, as well as trans and saturated fats. Focus on fresh, whole foods instead. If lifestyle changes are not working to lower cholesterol levels, you may need to go on cholesterol-reducing medication. Some of our cholesterol medications are Lipitor, Crestor, and Liptruzet.
Is it time to check your cholesterol levels? We recommend everyone over the age of 20 to check their cholesterol levels every four to six years. Talk to your doctor about getting a blood test to check your cholesterol levels.