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The Truths of High Cholesterol: Myth vs. Fact

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Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance found in our bloodstreams. It is created by our liver and also comes from the food we eat. Having too much “bad” cholesterol in our blood can cause plaque to build up in our bloodstreams which cause problems for our health. Plaque buildup can lead to coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke. In fact, having high cholesterol doubles the risk for heart disease.

High Cholesterol is one of the most common chronic conditions. Even with this condition being so common, there are many misconceptions about high cholesterol. Here are some common stereotypes about high cholesterol. Are they myths or are they facts?

Myth: High Cholesterol doesn’t have symptoms.

True: High cholesterol doesn’t have any symptoms and most people with this condition don’t know they have it. This is why it is especially important to take control of your health and have your cholesterol levels checked regularly. Your cholesterol levels are one of the most controllable risk factors for heart attack, stroke, and heart disease.

Myth: Only men can have high cholesterol.

False: Both women and men can have high cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease. Generally, women experiencing menopause or who are 55 years of age or more may start to exhibit higher levels of cholesterol. Cardiovascular disease affects women just as much as it does men and is  the leading cause of death for men and women. 

Myth: Genetics can impact your cholesterol levels.

True: Your genetics and family history have a connection with your cholesterol levels. If a family member has had high cholesterol, you are more likely to develop high cholesterol as well. It is crucial to know your family medical history and to have your cholesterol levels checked as often as recommended by your provider. Certain people may require testing more often than others.

Myth: High cholesterol only affects overweight and obese people.

False: High cholesterol can affect anyone, regardless of their weight. People who are considered thin or average weight can still have high cholesterol. On average, everyone should have their cholesterol levels checked every 4 to 6 years.

Myth: If you’re under the age of 40, you don’t need to have your cholesterol level checked.

False: Anyone can have high cholesterol regardless of their age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that 7% of children ages 6 to 19 have high cholesterol.  While our risk of high cholesterol increases as we age due to our decreased ability to filter cholesterol from our blood, people under the age of 40 can still have increased cholesterol levels. This can be due to their lifestyles, diets, and family history of high cholesterol.

Children between the ages of 9 and 11, should have their cholesterol checked at least once and should have it checked again when between the ages of 17 and 20. Everyone should have their cholesterol levels checked every 4 to 6 years starting at 20 years of age. Others may need to have their cholesterol levels more often if they have certain risk factors, such as a family history of high cholesterol. If your provider doesn’t mention your cholesterol levels or doesn’t test them, don’t be afraid to speak up and request to have your cholesterol levels checked. It’s important to know your cholesterol level to determine your risk for heart attack, stroke, and heart disease.

Myth: Lifestyle and dietary changes aren’t needed if you take cholesterol medications.

False: Lifestyle and dietary changes, in combination with cholesterol medications , are the best way to keep high cholesterol in check. While genetics and family history also factor into your cholesterol levels, maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise are crucial to lowering your cholesterol levels.

You can lower your cholesterol levels by eating foods low in saturated and trans fats. You can do this by eating less red meat, sodium, fried foods, and high-fat dairy products. It is recommended that you eat a balanced diet made up of fish, veggies, fruit, poultry, and nuts. The DASH diet  is often suggested for those with high cholesterol and other heart conditions. A well-balanced diet, coupled with regular moderate to high-intensity exercise can keep your cholesterol levels balanced. 

Schedule an ap pointment with Village Health Partners to get your cholesterol checked by clicking here.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.