The word cholesterol is most commonly associated with heart-related issues. It has been synonymous with being bad for health, especially heart health. However, cholesterol is an important substance that the body requires to synthesise hormones, vitamin D and other digestive system substances. The body possesses the ability to synthesize its own cholesterol and hence, excess intake from foods can put you at risk for overall health.
Cholesterol can be divided into different types, where LDL, VLDL and IDL are known as bad cholesterol and HDL is the good cholesterol.
Despite being a crucial factor for good health, there are a number of myths floating around about cholesterol. Let’s learn the truth behind these cholesterol myths and understand the relationship between cholesterol and heart disease.
Here are the 5 most common myths about Cholesterol:
Myth 1: All cholesterols are bad for health
Fact: Cholesterol is an essential component for performing various functions in the body. Cholesterol travels in the body as lipoproteins. Low-Density Lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol is considered bad cholesterol and makes up the majority chunk of total cholesterol in the body. A high level of LDL cholesterol in the body (blood) can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. On the other hand, High-Density Lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol is the good cholesterol that carries the cholesterol to the liver, from where it is flushed out of the body. A high level of LDL cholesterol is a concern, but your doctor can suggest ways to control it. Ideal Total cholesterol: HDL (3.5:1) also is very important and can help protect your heart. This is the basic difference between HDL and LDL cholesterol.
Myth 2: Symptoms of high blood cholesterol are easily detectable
Fact: Typically, high blood cholesterol has no symptoms or indicators. Unless you experience a heart attack or stroke, you might not be aware that you have high blood cholesterol. That is why you must get your blood profile examined at least once every five years.
There might not be any definitive symptoms for high blood cholesterol, but unhealthy habits like smoking, over-consuming foods high in salt sugars and saturated fats, being obese or not getting enough exercise can contribute to having high blood cholesterol.
Myth 3: Food is the only source of cholesterol
Fact: Your body naturally produces cholesterol as well. But the amount and type of fat you consume can impact your cholesterol levels. Saturated and trans fat will make your cholesterol levels go higher. Foods such as red meat, butter, and cheese contain lots of saturated fat and cholesterol, so if you are trying to lower your cholesterol levels, the ICMR recommends keeping your SFA intake less than 8-10%. Instead, you can choose foods with high fibre content such as oatmeal and beans, protein sources like soybean, legumes and healthy fats like avocado, seeds and nuts.
A simple way to maintain normal cholesterol levels is to choose a cooking oil that can do the same! A blended edible oil like Saffola Total is clinically proven to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood. It contains oryzanol which helps keep your cholesterol in check and makes it one of the best cooking oils for heart health.
Myth 4: High blood cholesterol levels do not affect women
Fact: Another cholesterol myth is that high blood cholesterol is a man’s problem. The truth is irrespective of your sex, you should be concerned about high blood cholesterol levels. Even though cardiovascular disease affects women later in life post-menopause, CVD is also a leading cause of death among women. Symptoms of heart disease are different and oftentimes subtle in women, such as shortness of breath, shoulder and back pain, or constant fatigue.
Myth 5: Only overweight people have high blood cholesterol
Fact: People with any body type can have high blood cholesterol levels. Being obese or overweight increases your chances of having high blood cholesterol levels, but being a normal weight doesn’t guarantee that you won’t face cholesterol issues. Individuals who don’t gain weight easily, are usually unaware of the amount of saturated and trans fats they consume. They could hence also be at risk of high blood cholesterol. So, regardless of your weight, age, sex, and food choices, you must get your cholesterol levels checked regularly.
To summarise, cholesterol plays an important role in overall health. That being said, you must not believe everything you hear about cholesterol, without fact-checking. With the correct lifestyle and food choices, we can lower the risk of developing high cholesterol.