Cholesterol has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years, and that’s not just because of its place on the side of a Honey Nut Cheerios box. Doctors report that cholesterol is one of the leading factors behind serious health problems including coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths that surround cholesterol – so how do you separate fact from fiction? Scroll down to learn more about cholesterol myths and facts.
Cholesterol Myths and Facts
Myth: All Cholesterol Is Bad
Cholesterol isn’t inherently “bad.” In fact, your body needs it, and your liver produces it naturally. But too much of this waxy substance can lead to health problems. This usually happens when you consume too many sources of dietary cholesterol – cholesterol that exists in meat products like poultry and full-fat dairy products. Over time, large quantities of dietary cholesterol can build up in the inner walls of your arteries, leading to complications involving your heart or brain.
Fact: Anyone Can Have High Cholesterol
Contrary to popular belief, anyone can suffer from unhealthy amounts of cholesterol – not just senior men, who are statistically most likely to get a high cholesterol diagnosis. Surprisingly, children can also have high cholesterol levels, whether due to genetics or lifestyle circumstances. Additionally, women can suffer from high cholesterol, leading to complications like atherosclerosis, or the thickening of blood vessels leading to reduced blood flow. For young people with a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that doctors check patients’ cholesterol levels several times throughout adolescence and then yearly once patients reach adulthood. If you’re a senior concerned about high cholesterol, make sure to make a regular testing plan with your doctor regardless of your demographic.
Myth: Cholesterol-Free Foods Are Totally Heart-Healthy
You’ve probably seen the supermarket shelves stocked with foods labeled “cholesterol-free,” “low-cholesterol,” or “low-fat.” But these foods may not be as heart-healthy as you think. If you’re working to lower your cholesterol, you’ll need to keep other nutrition factors in mind. That includes things like saturated fat, serving size, trans fat, and calories. Take, for example, using butter in place of margarine. While butter is a traditionally “unhealthy” food because of its fat content, margarine, while often marketed as “more heart-healthy,” may be even higher in some types of fat. When in doubt, compare labels or work with a trusted dietician to make healthy choices.
Fact: There Are Many Factors That Affect Cholesterol
Although diet and physical activity both play a major role in cholesterol levels, they’re not the only factors to consider. Your age, your weight, and your genetics can also contribute to high cholesterol levels. Make sure to focus on a healthy diet and plenty of physical activity; however, your doctor is your best resource when it comes to cholesterol levels that aren’t impacted by lifestyle choices.
Are you a senior worried about your cholesterol levels? Pay a visit to your doctor – they can conduct a cholesterol test, assess your risk factors, and help you set up an ongoing plan to reduce your cholesterol. For high-risk patients, your doctor may prescribe certain lifestyle changes and statin medication. For ongoing wellness, explore more resources from the American Heart Association.
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