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Healthy Balance

Myth vs. Facts: Dietary Cholesterol and Heart Health

Woman possibly increasing her dietary cholesterol when eating a cheeseburger and fries
High cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease, but a healthy diet, exercise and sometimes medications can help.

One major risk factor for heart disease is high cholesterol. But there are different types of cholesterol, and not all of the them are bad. Can you determine what’s good and what’s bad when it comes to your dietary cholesterol?

Learning about cholesterol can keep you heart-healthy and prevent atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty deposits build up on the walls of your arteries. This condition can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Myth or Fact? Good and Bad Cholesterol

When it comes to your heart and cholesterol, there are a lot of myths out there.

The only way to know if you have high cholesterol is through a blood test.

Fact. There are no signs or symptoms of high cholesterol. The only way to know your dietary cholesterol levels is to have a blood test done. It is recommended that you start getting your cholesterol tested at age 20, or earlier if there is a family history of the condition.

The lower your HDL, the better.

Myth. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is often referred to as “good” cholesterol. You want this number to be higher rather than lower. A reading over 60 mg/dL has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.

The lower your LDL is, the better.

Fact. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol. You want this number to be low rather than high, ideally under 130 mg/dL. High levels of LDL can raise your heart disease risk.

You need to get some cholesterol from your diet.

Myth. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs, so you don’t need to consume any additional cholesterol in your diet.

Lower Your Risk

Unhealthy dietary cholesterol levels can lead to serious heart problems. Schedule an appointment with our cardiology specialists for checkups and screenings to stay heart-healthy.

You should avoid all fats if you want to keep your cholesterol levels low.

Myth. Although it’s a good idea to limit saturated fat and avoid trans fats as much as possible, your body needs some fat in your diet. Try to consume mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Some foods that supply healthier fats include nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocados and cold water fish, such as salmon or tuna.

You don’t have to worry about high cholesterol if you’re a woman.

Myth. Although men tend to have higher total cholesterol levels than women before age 50, women usually have higher cholesterol than men of the same age after age 50. This is due in part to declining estrogen levels during menopause.

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