Have you ever thought that getting headaches or blurred vision was a sign of high cholesterol? What about those old recommendations to avoid eggs when you have high cholesterol? Well, there are some old facts that have now been proven false with research, and there are also things that are just simply not true. Let’s go through some common myths.
This is not true. Your body needs cholesterol to do the most important jobs, like making hormones and building cells. While cholesterol itself is not bad, the transporters that carry it through your body might be. Cholesterol travels through the blood on two types of lipoproteins:
When your body has too much LDL cholesterol, it can build up in the walls of your blood vessels, there, it's called plaque. Over time, the more plaque that builds, the more narrow the blood vessels. This leads to restricted blood flow, causing high blood pressure, and even eventually blocked blood flow to and from your heart and other organs, causing angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.
Not all dietary fats are the same... Eating foods high in saturated fat- like butter, lard, fatty meats, and coconut and palm oils- will raise your LDL (we don't want this). Healthy fats from most other plants and also fish will raise your HDL (we do want this)!
This is not true. High cholesterol usually has no signs or symptoms. You may not know you have high cholesterol until it is too late - when you have chest pains, a heart attack, or a stroke. That’s why it’s so important to get your cholesterol levels checked at least every 5 years, or annually if you have a history or family history of it, and every 6 months if it's high.
In rare cases, people can develop yellowish growths on their skin called xanthomas, or cholesterol-rich deposits. People with xanthomas may have high cholesterol levels.
This is totally false. While all foods coming from animals will usually have cholesterol, research finds that it is not the cholesterol in the food that raises blood cholesterol. In fact, it is the fat.
Foods from or made from animals, like red meat, butter, and cheese, are high in cholesterol but usually also have a lot of saturated fat. Since saturated fat can make your cholesterol numbers higher, it’s best to choose foods that are fat free or lower in saturated fat. Eggs, in this case, are a pretty healthy protein source.
Also, eat foods with plenty of fiber, such as oatmeals and beans, and healthy unsaturated fat, such as avocados, olive oil, and nuts. Foods containing these will help to actually lower cholesterol.
Talk with your care team and health care provider about ways to manage your cholesterol.
False. Don’t lose hope! You can do many things to improve your cholesterol levels and keep them in a healthy range!
Neither true nor false. Many people can have healthy cholesterol levels by eating healthfully and getting enough exercise. Some people may also need medications, usually statins, to lower their cholesterol levels.
You may need statins or other medications in addition to diet and exercise if you have:
Other groups of people may also need medicines to manage their cholesterol, including people who have a high risk for cardiovascular disease. Always talk to your doctor and care team about the best ways to manage your cholesterol.
Cholesterol is an old condition with a lot of new and old research surrounding it. While the heart can feel like a mystery, there are some things that we now know to be true. Dietary cholesterol is not the enemy here, fat is. If you exercise and eat healthfully, you can likely keep your arteries free and clear, but at some point, or if you have a strong family history or otherwise high risk of cholesterol issues, medications may be necessary. Talk to your care team about ways you can manage your cholesterol and improve your heart health.