Health care savvy Americans, confident in their cholesterol knowledge, may be in for a surprise. Knowing their cholesterol numbers-and where they should be-is not enough. To protect their heath, consumers need to recognize key myths surrounding cholesterol.
According to experts, the top five include:
Myth No. 1: If my total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol are “normal,” I don’t need to worry about heart disease.
Wrong. Patients who get their total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol results back as “normal” may actually be at risk because standard cholesterol tests fail to measure many cholesterol abnormalities that can lead to heart disease. In fact, almost half of all patients who have heart attacks have “normal” cholesterol, as measured by the standard cholesterol test.
Myth No. 2: If I exercise and eat healthy, I don’t need to worry about heart disease.
That’s another fallacy. Many people who are at risk or already suffer from heart disease exercise and eat right. That’s because genetics play a significant role in heart disease. In fact, a recent study of male twins, one lean and athletic and the other heavier and more sedentary, found that the brothers tended to show the same cholesterol response to high-fat and low-fat diets.
Myth No. 3: Women aren’t as susceptible to heart disease as men.
This myth couldn’t be further from the truth. Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death in women. In fact, nearly twice as many American women die of heart disease and stroke as from all forms of cancer combined, including breast cancer. High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, and women tend to have higher cholesterol than men starting in their 40s.
Myth No. 4: The routine cholesterol test gives an accurate measure of my LDL cholesterol.
Wrong again. A little-known fact about the routine cholesterol test is that it estimates LDL cholesterol, rather than directly measuring it. This process can result in a significant underestimation of a patient’s LDL level-and resulting heart disease risk.
Myth No. 5: If my good cholesterol (HDL) is high, I am protected against heart disease.
This may appear true, but there’s a catch: High-density lipoprotein (HDL) consists of subclasses (HDL2 and HDL3). While people with higher HDL2 are more protected against heart disease, those with more HDL3 may actually be at increased risk-even if they have normal total HDL.
What Can I Do?
Getting a blood test is a great way to see where your levels are at. You can also get specific cholesterol tests done that can measure total cholesterol, HDL, LDL and triglycerides.
Some new, expanded cholesterol tests debunks these myths by identifying up to 90 percent of people at risk for cardiovascular diseases-nearly twice the rate of routine cholesterol tests. It also breaks down cholesterol further-providing information that can help your doctor better assess your true risk of heart disease. The simple blood test is available nationwide through national and regional diagnostic laboratories and is reimbursed by most insurance companies, including Medicare. Chat with your doctor 🙂
A few changes in your diet can reduce cholesterol and improve your heart health:
- Reduce saturated fats. Saturated fats, found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy products, raise your total cholesterol.
- Eliminate trans fats. Trans fats, sometimes listed on food labels as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” are often used in margarines and store-bought cookies, crackers and cakes. Trans fats raise overall cholesterol levels
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Increase soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is also found in such foods as kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples and pears. Soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Five to 10 grams or more of soluble fiber a day decreases your LDL cholesterol.
- Add whey protein. Whey protein, which is found in dairy products, may account for many of the health benefits attributed to dairy. Studies have shown that whey protein given as a supplement lowers both LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol as well as blood pressure
- Don’t smoke!