4 cholesterol myths you shouldn’t believe
It’s estimated that about half of us in the UK are living with high cholesterol. Despite this scary statistic, it’s actually a pretty confusing topic. What is cholesterol? How does it contribute to our risk of heart disease and stroke? Most importantly, how can we maintain healthy cholesterol levels? Let’s find out by busting 4 common cholesterol myths.
🥑 Myth: All cholesterol is bad for us
Fact: Cholesterol plays an important role in human health, such as making hormones and Vitamin D, helping us digest foods properly, and strengthening cell walls. Cholesterol is carried in our bloodstream by proteins called lipoproteins.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): When we talk about “bad” cholesterol, we’re talking about LDL cholesterol. Too much LDL cholesterol in the blood can build up in the walls of our blood vessels, called plaque. Over time, the build-up of plaque narrows the blood vessels which restricts blood flow to your heart and other organs. Higher levels of LDL in our blood is linked to heart disease and stroke.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL): Also known as “good” cholesterol, as it helps to carry cholesterol back to the liver to be removed from the body. Physical activity and a healthy diet have been linked to higher levels of HDL cholesterol, and a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
🍳 Myth: Eating foods high in cholesterol (like eggs) gives us high cholesterol
Fact: This is the most common myth we hear about cholesterol, and why eggs used to have a bad rap. In reality, it’s the saturated fat content of foods that are more likely to contribute to higher cholesterol. Limiting highly processed foods like cakes, potato chips, and sweet biscuits (high in saturated fats and sugar), is a good strategy to manage our cholesterol levels.
💁🏽♀️ Myth: There’s not much I can do about high cholesterol, it’s just a natural part of ageing.
Fact: This is the most dangerous myth of all! There are many things you can do to keep your cholesterol levels in a healthy range.
- Consume a diversity of high fibre foods, including fruits, vegetables, and wholegrains. Hint: Oats and wheat contain a specific compound called beta-glucan which is particularly powerful at reducing blood cholesterol.
- Include healthy fats in your diet, like avocado, nuts, seeds, oily fish, and olive oil
- Minimise highly processed foods that are high in saturated fats, salt, and sugar
- Be active every day. Aim for 150-300 minutes of moderate physical activity each week
- Avoid smoking or using tobacco products
❤️🔥 Myth: I don’t feel the symptoms of high cholesterol, so I must be fine
Fact: High cholesterol does not cause symptoms. The scary thing is, most people are only aware after they’ve experienced angina (chest pain) or a heart attack. If you’re over 40 years old or have a higher risk of cholesterol (family history, carrying extra weight), it’s important to get your cholesterol levels checked. Learn more about how to get your cholesterol checked.
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