People believe several myths regarding health, right from ancient times. These myths could do more harm than good. Health myths are popular beliefs about health without having any scientific evidence.
You can find endless misconceptions spreading through social media, various websites, and print media when it comes to cholesterol and heart diseases, and diabetes related. We all should stop believing in all those antiquated beliefs because it may lead to serious health issues. In a world rife with misinformation, sorting facts from fiction can save you from harmful consequences.
Cholesterol has been demonized throughout the decades as it is always portrayed as a reason for heart disease. People are obsessed with cutting down fatty foods and pushing the cholesterol level down to maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle. Avoiding the entire categories of cholesterol-rich foods (like eggs and saturated fats) just because of some unproven myths is actually harming your health.
Instead of dispelling cholesterol myths, even some doctors and medical professionals espoused these myths, which add to the confusion. Cholesterol is needed for your body to build healthy cells and is not always the cause of heart disease. Let’s first discuss the basics of cholesterol you need to know before delving into the common cholesterol misconceptions.
ALSO READ: HDL vs HDL Cholesterol
What is Cholesterol, and What Does It Do?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance and a type of lipid present in every cell in your body. It is needed for your body to build the structure of cell membranes, which is why cholesterol is vital to human life.
It also aids in producing vitamin D, bile acids and is a precursor for synthesizing five significant classes of steroid hormones. Bile helps with the digestion of fats in your body. Your liver will naturally produce all the cholesterol your body needs for these crucial functions.
Types of Cholesterol
Cholesterol moves throughout the body in the blood on proteins called “lipoproteins”, which are compounds made of fat and protein. Based on the type of lipoproteins, cholesterol is categorized into two main types: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol.
LDL, which comprises 60–70% of total blood lipoproteins, is often known as the “bad” cholesterol because high LDL cholesterol levels lead to fatty builds up inside your arteries (atherosclerosis).
According to popular thinking, the plaque accumulation on the walls of arteries makes your arteries narrow and raises your risk for heart disease and stroke.
HDL is often referred to as the “good” cholesterol because it helps keep your cardiovascular system healthy by carrying “bad” cholesterol (LDL) away from the arteries and back to the liver. The liver breaks down LDL into bile salts and flushes it out of the body. A high level of HDL lipoproteins lowers heart disease and stroke risk.
Debunking Most Popular Myths About Cholesterol
Let us check the common myths about cholesterol that have been spreading for a long time. Know about these cholesterol myths that could be harming your health.
1) All Cholesterol is Bad for Your Health
This is the most popular cholesterol myth. A lot of people believe that there is nothing good about cholesterol. But, as we discussed earlier, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is the “good” cholesterol essential for good health, removing excess cholesterol from the blood.
There is another thing that needs clarity is that cholesterol is just ‘cholesterol’. Technically, there is no such thing as good or bad cholesterol.
Excess of HDL is not good, similarly too little LDL also is bad for health. The so-called good and bad cholesterol is actually two types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol through the blood.
2) Cholesterol Comes With Non-Vegetarian Food
Yet another myth is that cholesterol levels increase only if you eat meat or meat products.
If this is the case, pure vegetarians should be having a well-controlled serum cholesterol level. While vegetables and fruits-rich diet are rich in fibre and antioxidants, has its beneficial effects, that alone is not enough to control cholesterol.
For example, even the healthiest food, if you eat more than what your body needs, the cholesterol and TGL levels will increase. Processed carbohydrates, sugary food, etc all in excess can increase blood cholesterol.
3) Total Cholesterol Level Indicates Your Heart Disease Risk
Most people considered the total cholesterol level as a great signal for their heart disease risk. It is the sum of your blood’s cholesterol content, including LDL and HDL.
Just your total cholesterol levels alone may not help determine your risk of heart disease. Many other factors like HDL/Cholesterol ratio and Triglyceride/HDL ratio are also needed to assess the risk of heart disease.
Having very low levels of LDL cholesterol or HDL cholesterol is also harmful to your health. This is another common myth about cholesterol that should be avoided.
4) Cholesterol is Your Worst Enemy
Cholesterol is a good friend in moderation and is vital for normal cell functioning. But in most people’s minds, cholesterol is ingrained as a devil, and cholesterol-rich foods are considered the worst enemy for health.
Being a building block of human tissues, cholesterol is necessary for each cell in your body to thrive.
5) You Can Manage Your Cholesterol Only With Medicines
We are not against medicines. Some people need cholesterol-lowering medications such as statins to maintain cholesterol levels. It is also possible to achieve results with some lifestyle changes.
However, this needs to be done ONLY with the approval and consultation of your cardiologist. People with diseases like familial hypercholesterolemia, cardiovascular disease, or type 2 diabetes may need medicines to manage the cholesterol levels.
But most of the others can manage their cholesterol levels under control and avoid the dangers of drugs through regular exercise and a proper diet rich in unsaturated fats, whole grains, fruits, etc.
Some people believe these myths about cholesterol and must understand the facts behind it. Not all you hear or see is correct.
Do not blindly believe in the cholesterol myths or any other health-related myths. Separating myths from facts can really help you make healthy choices.
Cholesterol is imperative for your body’s metabolic processes. But keeping the LDL cholesterol level at bay is also necessary. Like the saying, “prevention is better than cure”, you can manage your blood cholesterol levels by eating heart-healthy foods and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
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