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Common Cholesterol Myths

 

There are many myths circulating about cholesterol. If you believe any of the following misconceptions, you might be making uninformed choices that can sabotage your chances of lowering your cholesterol:
 
 • Cholesterol Myth: I follow a good diet, so I do not 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 fat) may have elevated levels of cholesterol.  However, there are other risk factors to consider.  People who eat well may also have heightened cholesterol in some cases.  You should be tested for cholesterol if you:
  • Are older.  Cholesterol levels do tend to rise with age.
 • Are a woman who has been through menopause.  Lowered estrogen levels after menopause have been linked to higher levels of bad cholesterol.
  • Are a smoker, Smoking is a dangerous to heart health and may affect cholesterol levels.
 • Are sedentary.  Lack of exercise can have a detrimental effect on cardiac health and cholesterol.
 • Are someone whose family has a history of heart disease and high cholesterol. High cholesterol in some cases can be 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 a risk.
 
 • Cholesterol Myth: I am young, so there’s no need to worry about cholesterol.
 
 Many risk factors can affect cholesterol.  A family history of heart disease, obesity, lack of exercise, and poor eating habits can cause even young adults to develop dangerously high cholesterol.
 
 • Cholesterol Myth: I’m on a cholesterol medication, so my cholesterol is decreasing.
 
 Cholesterol medication should never be seen as a complete solution to high cholesterol.  It’s always meant to be used in conjunction with a healthy eating plan and heart-healthy lifestyle to achieve its full effect. 
 
 In actual fact, many doctors won’t 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.  Bear 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 can have unpleasant or even dangerous side effects. 
 For these reasons, diet and lifestyle must be your first defense against high cholesterol and medication should only be used to complement or supplement these positive changes in your life.
 
 • Cholesterol Myth: Buying “low-fat” and “cholesterol-free” food will help me keep my cholesterol down or will help me to lower my cholesterol.
 
 Many products labeled “cholesterol-free,” “light” or “fat free” are still high in trans and saturated fat and contain more fat than healthier food alternatives. 
 
 For example, it’s 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 fat and ingredients which are unhealthy for your heart. 
 
 If you want to choose food, which is good for you, choose food that is low in fat in general and food that is low in trans, saturated and hydrogenated fats in particular.  Eating fresh fruit 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 can lower your cholesterol.
 
 All fats can contribute to raised cholesterol levels, and you must be especially aware of saturated, trans, and hydrogenated fats.  There are actually a number of margarines which contain these types of fats.  To truly lower your cholesterol, you must decrease the total amount of fat you eat and choose fats that are lower in trans and saturated fats. 
 
 Choosing margarine won’t automatically help you to 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 affects only men.
 
 Until menopause, it’s 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, and lack of exercise, poor food choices, smoking, and alcoholism) can still have levels of elevated cholesterol. 
 
 After menopause, women actually often experience higher levels of bad cholesterol.  Actually, many women who have experienced menopause find that they experience high levels of bad cholesterol that diet and exercise alone cannot fix.  If you are a pre-menopausal woman with a risk factor for high cholesterol or heart disease, get a cholesterol profile done. After the menopause, women must have their cholesterol levels checked regularly.
 
 
 • Cholesterol Myth: Eating eggs isn’t bad for you because dietary cholesterol doesn’t matter as much as people once thought.
 
 This myth is together true and false.  Eggs yolks contain a high level of dietary cholesterol, so that one egg contains about 213 milligrams of cholesterol (bear in mind that for most healthy people the limit for cholesterol consumption is about 300 milligrams daily).  Whilst it’s 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 too high, your daily allotted intake of dietary intake may not allow you to eat even one egg per day.  Even if you’re generally healthy, if you wish to eat more eggs you’ll have to take extra caution to limit your levels of dietary cholesterol in your other foods. 
 
 Generally, you don’t want to think of foods as “bad” or “good”, as most food can really be part of your diet, however if you have high cholesterol, you’ll want to be careful about your consumption of eggs or switch to only egg whites.
 
 • 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’ll 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 food and exercise no matter how healthy you think you might be and get your cholesterol tested if you have any risk factors associated with heightened cholesterol.

 

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