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Cholesterol Myths: What You Need To Know

A compound in the body known as cholesterol is one of the more well-known components. Despite its reputation, this fatty substance is greatly misunderstood.

Cholesterol Myths: What You Need To Know

In each animal cell, cholesterol is synthesized by the cell membrane; therefore, it is crucial for survival. Despite its bad reputation, cholesterol is vital for life. It increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, however, when it is present in the blood at high levels.

Cholesterol Myths: What You Need To Know

The artery walls are lined with plaques containing cholesterol, fat, and calcium. In an aging society, this results in narrowed blood vessels and can lead to other complications, including strokes. In the United States, in 2015–2016, 12% of people ages 20 years or older had high cholesterol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Each year, raised cholesterol levels to kill 2.6 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). With such a high prevalence of misinformation, it is not surprising that cholesterol is so misunderstood. To help you sort facts from fiction, we compiled the following facts with the help of experts.

There is no good cholesterol

In addition to cholesterol being a part of cell membranes, this element is also vital to their function. Apart from its function as a structural component of membranes, it also functions to produce steroid hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids. Nevertheless, without any cholesterol, we could not live. No matter how high our levels, we would not be able to survive. Cholesterol, as Dr. Greenfield explained, is not harmful. Thousands of innocent bystanders suffer mistreatment every day in our modern lifestyle. Currently practicing at the Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, Dr. Robert Greenfield is a board-certified cardiologist and lipidologist. 

Cholesterol also plays an important role in the way it is transported in the body, which determines if it is harmful to health. Fats and proteins in lipoproteins carry cholesterol from one part of the body to another. There are two main modes of transport. 

  1. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) transports cholesterol from the liver to the cells, where it plays several critical roles. LDL cholesterol is sometimes referred to as “bad” cholesterol due to its link to cardiac disease.
  2. The high-density lipoprotein (HDL) conveys cholesterol back to the liver, therefore it is often referred to as “good” cholesterol. In this environment, cholesterol is eliminated from the body, lowering its cardiovascular risk.

Since I am not overweight, I cannot have high cholesterol

Yes, you can have it even if you have a healthy weight, responded Dr. Greenfield. It depends on what you eat as well as your genetics how much cholesterol you have. The way cholesterol is processed can vary from person to person depending on a person’s genetic make-up, he said. Due to its genetic nature, familial hypercholesterolemia could affect up to 1 in 200 people, he explained. The percentage of calories you burn versus those you consume determines weight.

As Dr. Paz said, even people who are healthy in terms of weight may have abnormal cholesterol levels. Your food choices, exercise habits, smoking status, and the amount of alcohol you consume also impact your cholesterol levels. A cardiologist at K Health, Dr. Edo Paz serves as vice president of medical services.

I would have symptoms if my cholesterol was high

This is a myth. As Dr. Paz explained, high cholesterol normally isn’t a symptom. That’s why routine blood tests to detect high cholesterol are recommended, he added. A person’s risk factors determine the age at which they must begin screening and how often they should do so.

It is only at the late stages when excessive cholesterol deposits are causing damage to the heart and blood vessels that cholesterol can be associated with symptoms. In this situation, the patient may suffer from chest pain (angina), a heart attack, or even die, according to Dr. Greenfield.

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