Cholesterol levels are one of the indicators many people try to control and take care of in order to stay healthy and ward off many diseases. But sometimes this can be difficult, and those concerned have a hard time getting facts right.
Below you can find some facts about cholesterol and four common myths about it. Hopefully, they will help you get some clarity on the issue. This information has been taken from official guidance of trustworthy agencies and institutions only, but does not constitute or intend to replace proper medical advice and should therefore not be taken as such.
4 common myths about cholesterol, debunked
Myth #1: I can feel cholesterol in my arteries
Not really. The CDCs explain that symptoms of hypercholesterolemia are actually rare. To be blunt, the only point where you will be likely to notice is when they get too high and cause you a stroke or heart attack. Of course, no one wants to be that late.
That’s why the CDCs recommend checking your cholesterol levels regularly. This is, every 4 to 6 years for most healthy adults, more often if you suffer from a heart condition, diabetes or have a family history of high cholesterol. Children and teenagers should check their levels at least once between ages 9 and 11, and then once more between 17 and 21. Your doctor will advise you how frequently you should get tested.
Myth #2: You can’t have high cholesterol if you’re slim
Although obesity increases your chances, weight shouldn’t be taken as an indicator, the American Heart Foundation warns. People can have high cholesterol levels regardless hoy their weight or body type, and thin people are not an exception.
Myth #3: Cholesterol will always be bad for you and should always be avoided
A bad reputation can obscure nuances. Cholesterol is a more generic term than some people think, as there are different kinds of cholesterol, or lipoproteins. It’s the density that matters when trying to distinguish between “good” and “bad” cholesterol. Low-density lipoproteins, or LDL is a waxy substance that can cause a buildup in your arteries and lead to heart disease. So yes, this situation is to be avoided.
But there’s more to it, as you also have High-density lipoproteins (HDL) that are dubbed “good cholesterol”, because they help carry cholesterol to other parts of your body back to the liver, where they are properly processed and removed from the body.
You might be surprised to learn that most of the cholesterol present in your body is produced by your body, the AARP, an American non-profit that focuses on issues affecting older people, notes on its website. In fact, cholesterol is responsible for many important body functions, so no, it’s not all bad. You just want to make sure there’s not too much of it.
Myth #4: Eggs raise your cholesterol levels a lot
Eggs are often blamed for supposedly being one of the worst things you can include in your diet when it comes to cholesterol. In fact, that’s not the case. While it’s true that they are high in cholesterol, most of the fat in them is not saturated, according to Harvard’s Public School of Health.
We do know that eggs contain many nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin and some vitamins. Big studies conducted on that very Harvard School have been following hundreds of thousands of people over decades, and they don’t report higher rates of heart disease or strokes among those who eat an egg a day. Of course, moderation is always advised, and perhaps what you eat with eggs should worry more.
The rundown on cholesterol: the best strategy involves exercising and a sensible diet
At the end of the day, you should focus on following healthy dietary habits that suit your lifestyle but also follows general guidelines shared by virtually every health institution: eat lots of fruits and vegetables, prioritise plant-based protein, go for whole grain versions of your carbohydrates, limit your added sugar and saturated fats intake, avoiding foods that are ultra-processed, and make water your go-to drink.
Additionally, you should exercise. Most adults should get active with 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity and do moderate to high-intensity strength activity twice a week, per the American Heart Association guidelines. Finally, getting your cholesterol levels checked every few years is also advised, as mentioned above.