Cholesterol: Myths and Facts

Cholesterol is a white substance found in the human body and consumed in a number of different foods. It has a reputation for contributing to heart disease risk, but there’s more to cholesterol than most people know.

One of the prevailing myths about cholesterol is that it is always bad. However, the fact is that cholesterol can be healthy for your body. It is vital for a number of bodily functions and processes, including hormone production. Your body needs cholesterol. But having too much of it can cause problems.

1. Good and Bad Cholesterol

Doctors often refer to cholesterol as good and bad cholesterol. It gets this designation based on the lipoproteins that carry it through your body. Cholesterol carried by low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is referred to as bad cholesterol while cholesterol carried by high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is referred to as good. When high levels of LDL cholesterol are in the blood, it builds up in a person’s arteries and increases his risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

2. Only Obese People Have to Worry About Cholesterol

While it is true that obese people are more at risk for developing high cholesterol, it can be a problem for people of any body type. In fact, a thin person who has trouble gaining weight may be less careful about what she eats. As a result, she may consume more trans and saturated fats and increase her risk of developing high cholesterol. To stay heart healthy, have your doctor check your cholesterol levels regularly–no matter what your body type.

3. The Female Myth

Some people are under the impression that women don’t have as much to fear from cholesterol as men do. The fact is estrogen does provide some, but not total, protection from bad cholesterol. It actually works to help raise the body’s good cholesterol levels. As a woman ages, however, she loses this benefit, and post-menopausal women may be more at risk of high cholesterol, even if they follow a healthy diet and stay physically fit. If you are getting close to menopause, it’s wise to speak to your doctor about ways to keep your heart healthy throughout menopause and beyond. No matter what your age, regular exercise, keeping your weight healthy and avoiding cigarette smoke can help.

4. Margarine and Healthy Cholesterol Levels

Many people believe that substituting margarine for butter can have a major impact on their cholesterol levels. The truth is that both of them contain high levels of fat. As such, it’s best to use them only in moderation. However, a major concern for people who are trying to lower their cholesterol levels is the amount of trans and saturated fat they consume. Margarines that are soft or even in liquid form often contain less starurated and trans fats than those in solid form. Choosing soft or liquid margarine labeled as having “zero trans fats” can help you to keep your cholesterol levels low and your heart healthy. However, this is only one piece of the puzzle. An overall healthy diet is critical for healthy cholesterol levels.

 

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