As busy students and professionals, it is hard to tell fact from fiction these days. This is especially true of the ever-evolving health and wellness world. One such topic that can be a hard nut to crack (no pun intended) is cholesterol. My own sweet father thought that his cholesterol medication was to be taken when he ate poorly versus daily as prescribed. He has since learned the hard way that this is not the case. But what do we really know about current cholesterol research? Here are some common cholesterol myths debunked, according to the American Heart Association.
- Cholesterol is bad for you.
- While high cholesterol is not desirable for one’s health, cholesterol in general is needed by the body for various functions. These include the creation of cells, some hormones, vitamin D, and the breakdown of fatty foods.
- There are two forms of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL), aka “the good one,” and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or, “the bad one.’ HDL helps to keep arteries clear by being a magnet for LDL which it takes to the liver for removal. LDL takes cholesterol to your arteries, which can build up over time.
- High cholesterol is a genetic disorder.
- While certain individuals are more susceptible to high cholesterol based on family history, it can impact anyone that does not adhere to a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. Research shows that the buildup of plaque actually begins in childhood.
- Only overweight and obese people have high cholesterol.
- Anyone, regardless of body type, can have high cholesterol. Being overweight and obese raises your risk of having high cholesterol, but it is not an absolute determinant.
- Cholesterol medication allows you to eat whatever you want.
- Cholesterol medication is designed to be taken regularly, with a balanced diet and regular exercise, to achieve a lower LDL. According to the Centers for Disease Control, only slightly over half of individuals that need cholesterol medication take it regularly.
- If I avoid meat, I will not have high cholesterol.
- While avoiding animal-based foods that are high in saturated and trans fats can be helpful for lowering your risk of high cholesterol, certain plant-based oils can also cause your liver to produce more cholesterol.
With the myths above debunked, there is still the great egg debate (good, bad, good again)! There are no simple answers to this debate. Regardless of this mystery, here is a simple cholesterol breakdown to live by:
- Eat a balanced diet and avoid foods with saturated and trans-fats.
- Maintain an active lifestyle.
- Get your cholesterol levels checked, starting as early as age 20 and every 4-6 years after, or as specified by your physician.