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Commonly Believed Cholesterol Myths
- High cholesterol is the leading cause of heart disease.
- If your HDL is normal or if your total cholesterol/HDL ratio is good, you are safe from heart disease.
- The amount of cholesterol in your food determines your blood cholesterol level.
- Moderate egg and shrimp consumption causes your cholesterol level to jump.
- LDL cholesterol is your enemy and should be as low as possible.
- A high body mass index (BMI) is a major risk factor for heart disease.
- Once you start medications for high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you will need to take them the rest of your life.
- Your family history determines if you are at high or low risk for cardiovascular disease.
- If you take a statin cholesterol‐lowering medication, you can eat whatever you want.
New Facts to Replace Old Myths
- You don’t need to be on cholesterol medications forever! Even people who have taken them for years can change their diet and exercise, shrink their arterial plaque, and may be able to stop further arterial plaque growth without any medication.
- Most cholesterol doesn’t come from your diet. Your liver makes it while you sleep. Eating saturated fat (found in fatty dairy products and meats) does more to increase cholesterol production than can be caused by simply eating foods high in cholesterol.
- Some foods that are high in cholesterol don’t raise cholesterol levels at all. For instance, moderate egg consumption doesn’t raise cholesterol levels. Even better, organic, free-range chickens fed flaxseed produce eggs with much less saturated fat and much more healthy fats. (However, skip the bacon and syrup-drenched pancakes on the side.)
- Shrimp is higher in cholesterol than many other foods, yet studies show it seems to have a form that doesn’t cause human cholesterol to increase. Eating shrimp is safe, as far as cholesterol goes.
- If you take a statin cholesterol medication, you are only partly protected! You may not eat whatever you want. Statins tell your liver to make less cholesterol when you’re sleeping. But they can’t stop bad food choices from coating your arteries with slime and plaque. Notice that statin commercials state correctly, “This medication, when combined with a healthy lifestyle, can reduce the risk of heart disease.” Healthy lifestyle is the operative phrase here. Drugs alone have not been shown to shrink plaque.