10 Cholesterol Myths Busted

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro
  • Cholesterol has been strongly linked to heart disease and causes quite a bit of fear when someone learns their cholesterol levels are elevated. However, some cholesterol issues have been misunderstood. Let's clear up a few of these misconceptions.


    Myth #1: Dietary cholesterol is dangerous.


    False. If you do not consume cholesterol in your diet your body will produce the cholesterol it needs. The lower your dietary cholesterol the more cholesterol your body produces and vice versa. That doesn't mean it's safe to go overboard on high cholesterol foods. Current dietary recommendations are to limit cholesterol intake to 200 mg per day or less.

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    Myth #2: If I have high cholesterol I cannot eat red meat.


    False. Red meat has a place within a heart healthy diet. As with everything, moderation is key as well as meat selection. Select lean cuts of meat, such as loins and rounds.

    Myth #3: Too high cholesterol means you have blocked arteries.


    False. Cholesterol itself is not the cause of artery blockage. There is a complex process leading to the formation of arterial plaque. Cholesterol is only one player in this process. A major component leading to arterial blockage involves inflammation and free radicals leading to the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.


    Myth #4: The lower your cholesterol the better.


    False. Cholesterol is actually a healing agent essential for optimal health. Too low cholesterol levels may be associated with health complications, such as hemorrhagic stroke, respiratory disease, and infectious disease.


    Myth #5: There are recognizable symptoms of high cholesterol.


    False. High cholesterol does not typically result in noticeable symptoms. The only way to know if your levels are high is to complete lab work. You should have regular cholesterol screenings every 5 years starting in your 20's. If you are at high risk you may need to be screened more frequently.


    Myth #6: High cholesterol is only a concern for men - not women.


    False. Women have estrogen on their side to help keep cholesterol levels within normal. However, after menopause this advantage is gone. Men over 45 and women over 55 are at higher risk for elevated cholesterol.


    Myth #7: There's no need to worry about cholesterol until you are over the age of 40.


    False. Unfortunately, heart disease and even heart attacks are occurring to individuals in their 20's and 30's. Even children are now being diagnosed with high cholesterol. As I stated above, the current recommendations is to have cholesterol screenings every 5 years beginning in your 20's.


    Myth #8: High cholesterol is genetic and there is nothing you can do about it.


    False. While genetics definitely play a role, diet and lifestyle choices have a significant impact on cholesterol levels. Having a family history of high cholesterol means you need to take preventive steps and be more proactive to keep your levels within normal.

    Myth #9: Cholesterol can only be successfully lowered with medication.


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    False. When you learn you have high cholesterol it's important to investigate the cause. Frequently if you correct the cause your cholesterol levels will return to normal. Possible causes of high cholesterol may include poor diet, lack of activity, infection, mental stress, and physical stress (such as surgery).


    Myth #10: Taking cholesterol lowering medication means I do not have to change my diet or be more active.


    False. Cholesterol medications can help lower cholesterol levels only so far. By making heart healthy diet and lifestyle choices you'll increase the effectiveness of your medication.


    Be sure to sign up for the free e-course How to Lower Cholesterol in 8 Simple Steps provided by dietitian Lisa Nelson at http://www.lowercholesterolwithlisa.com.


Published On: January 19, 2010