You knew there was a bit of an over-emphasis (borderlining obsession) about cholesterol, right?
Before we jump into some myths let's make sure we're on the same page when it comes to what exactly cholesterol is.
Myth #1: “Cholesterol” is cholesterol
Cholesterol is an actual molecule, but what it's bound to while floating through your blood is what's more important than just how much of it there is overall. In fact depending on what it's combined with can have opposite effects on your arteries and heart. Yes, opposite!
So cholesterol is just one component of a compound that floats around your blood. These compounds contain cholesterol as well as fats and special proteins called “lipoproteins”.
Lipoproteins are grouped into two main categories:
And yes, it's even more complicated than this. Each of these categories is further broken down into subcategories which can also be measured in a blood test.
So “cholesterol” isn't simply cholesterol because it has very different effects on your body depending on which other molecules it's bound to in your blood and what it is actually doing there.
Myth #2: Cholesterol is bad
Cholesterol has had a bad rap. Yet it’s not the enemy as our body cannot survive without it.
Ron Rosedale, MD, considered to be one of the leading anti-aging doctor in the United States explains:
“First and foremost, cholesterol is a vital component of every cell membrane on Earth. In other words, there is no life on Earth that can live without cholesterol."
That will automatically tell you that, in and of itself, it cannot be evil. In fact, cholesterol is one of our best friends.
Cholesterol is absolutely necessary for your body to produce critical things like vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun, your sex hormones (e.g. estrogen and testosterone), as well as bile to help you absorb dietary fats. Not to mention that it's incorporated into the membranes of your cells.
Talk about an important molecule! To believe that cholesterol is the adversary, think again. Without cholesterol, you would die.
The overall amount of cholesterol in your blood (AKA “total cholesterol”) isn't nearly as important as how much of each kind you have in your blood.
While way too much LDL cholesterol as compared with HDL (the LDL:HDL ratio) may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease it is absolutely not the only thing to consider for heart health.
It’s not about having lower cholesterol, it’s about having the right type of cholesterol.
Myth #3: Eating cholesterol increases your bad cholesterol
Most of the cholesterol in your blood is made by your liver. It's actually not from the cholesterol you eat. Why do you think cholesterol medications block an enzyme in your liver (HMG Co-A reductase, to be exact)? 'Cause that's where it's made!
What you eat still can affect how much cholesterol your liver produces. After a cholesterol-rich meal your liver doesn't need to make as much.
Myth #4: Your cholesterol should be as low as possible
As with almost everything in health and wellness there's a balance that needs to be maintained. There are very few extremes that are going to serve you well.
People with too-low levels of cholesterol have increased risk of death from other non-heart-related issues like certain types of cancers, as well as suicide. Higher cholesterol can increase life expectancy under certain circumstances.
Myth #5: Drugs are the only way to get a good cholesterol balance
Don't start or stop any medications without talking with your doctor.
While drugs can certainly lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol, there aren’t any drugs that are able to raise the “good” HDL cholesterol.
So how do we get the right kind of cholesterol – high HDL, low LDL, low triglycerides- and focus on reducing inflammation to treat heart disease?
The best way to get the right kind of cholesterol is:
Nutrition and exercise, baby!
The science of cholesterol and heart health is complicated and we're learning more every day. You may not need to fear it as much as we have been led to believe in the past. There is so much that you can do from a nutrition and lifestyle perspective to improve your cholesterol level.
And the first step is knowledge and understanding....
Now try our new yummy heart healthy Fresh Berry & Orange Salad w/Orange Hemp Seed Dressing below to incorporate more heart healthy veggies and fruit into your day!
If you would like more suggestions on incorporating healthy lifestyle changes as well as personalized wellness goals tailored to your specific needs into your life, CONTACT ME for a FREE health consultation. It costs nothing and the results will change your life! Sessions can be done in-person or virtually.
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Pamela Schubloom, CHC, CPC, AADP
Certified Holistic Health Coach
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