Cholesterol has been getting a lot of bad press and brickbats for its health-degrading effects. However, in truth the waxy substance is not all bad and there have been misconceptions about it. To be health savvy and get your facts right about cholesterol and your health, read on to identify the myths and facts.
Myth: Cholesterol is not needed in our body
Fact: Our liver is in fact producing cholesterol to facilitate in certain functions in our body. It is one of the building blocks of cell walls which form an important protective barrier to maintain normal cell function. Therefore, you will need cholesterol to ensure proper cell growth and function. Plus, without cholesterol, you will have a haywire weight, digestive function, weak bones and hormonal imbalance because it contributes in producing steroid hormone which keeps in check various systems in our body. How does your body digest fat? You will need cholesterol for this as well because it is converted to bile by the liver which does the job of digesting fat.
Myth: Get cholesterol from your diet because it is needed for the proper function of our body
Fact: You won’t need to load up extra cholesterol from your burgers and steaks because your liver will supply all the cholesterol your body needs. The cells in your body produce cholesterol on their own as well. Therefore, having a cholesterol-zero diet or going on a vegan diet without animal fat will not deprive your body of the necessary cholesterol.
Myth: High cholesterol level is only contributed by fatty diet.
Fact: The way you eat is not the only factor which can affect your cholesterol values. Hypercholesterolemia can be hereditary and if your parents passed on the bad genes to you, you may tip the scale of your cholesterol level too far as well. Therefore, being slim and fit does not necessarily put you on the safe zone as your genes may contribute to high cholesterol levels. Putting on extra pounds, aging and a sedentary lifestyle may also invite more cholesterol into your body and wreak havoc. To prevent your cholesterol level from rising, it may take a combination of regular workouts, healthy diet and weight.
Myth: Take more good cholesterol from your food to increase its level
Fact: HDL (high density lipoprotein) which is well known as the good cholesterol is in fact the transporter of cholesterol. It works to remove cholesterol from the circulation to avoid the formation of plaques. HDL is simply known as good cholesterol due to its beneficial function in reducing cholesterol level. Therefore, you won’t find good cholesterol or HDL from your food. You will need to pay more visits to the gym, munch on more fibers, stop smoking or lose the extra pounds to raise HDL level.
Myth: Only men gets high cholesterol level
Fact: Women may be protected from rising cholesterol levels by the estrogen during their early years. However, when menopause hits, they may get a fair share of hypercholesterolemia as well due to declining estrogen level. It may be difficult to bring down cholesterol level even with controlled diet and workouts by then.
Myth: There is only one standard cholesterol level which everyone should target for
Fact: The right cholesterol level which you should try to achieve actually differs between people. If you belong to the high-risk group of patients with various conditions like being hypertensive or diabetic, you will need to have a tighter control of your cholesterol level compared to people with no other risk factors. Most people without any other health conditions should keep their LDL level below 160 mg/dL. If you have a mild risk for heart disease, you may aim for an LDL level under 130 mg/dL. Meanwhile, people already having a heart disease should lower their LDL level to less than 100 mg/dL.
Myth: You will experience symptoms when you have high cholesterol level
Fact: Symptoms and health-damaging effects of a high cholesterol level will not appear right away. You may not suffer the consequences until a few decades later where your heart will be adversely affected with blood clots. The damaging effects of cholesterol accumulate insidiously as the years go by before you begin to notice the symptoms. Therefore, it is prudent to go for blood tests regularly to ensure that your cholesterol level does not derail.
Myth: Zero-cholesterol food is safe to be included in your diet
Fact: Besides cholesterol, high intake of saturated fat and trans-fat from your diet will also contribute to high cholesterol level. In fact, the unhealthy fats commonly found in animal products and processed food may have a more detrimental effect in clogging arteries than cholesterol. Therefore, reading food labels require attention to the fat contents as well because a can of potato chips with zero-cholesterol does not mean it is dear to your heart as the high fat content can be just as bad to your health.