Our body naturally produces the cholesterol it needs, but we also get some from the food we eat. There's a system in our body to eliminate extra cholesterol, but it doesn't always work perfectly. When this happens, we can end up with too much cholesterol in our blood, which can be problematic.

To clear up any misconceptions and make informed choices, it's good to learn the facts about cholesterol. Consider getting your cholesterol levels checked regularly to assess your risk of heart disease and stroke.

1) Misconception: High cholesterol is something we can easily sense or recognize.

Reality: High cholesterol typically doesn't come with noticeable symptoms. You might not realize your cholesterol levels are unhealthy until a heart attack or stroke occurs. That's why it's vital to have your cholesterol checked every 5 years.

2) Misconception: No cholesterol is beneficial for health.

Reality: Some types of cholesterol are essential for our body's functions, such as hormone production and cell building. It travels in our blood on lipoprotein particles. There are two types: LDL (better known as "bad" cholesterol) can clog arteries, forming plaque. HDL (the "good" cholesterol) removes cholesterol from the bloodstream and transports it back to the liver for removal, reducing the risk of heart disease. Over time, plaque buildup can narrow blood vessels, which can lead to angina or heart attacks.

3) Misconception: Consuming foods high in cholesterol won't impact the cholesterol levels.

Reality: Foods that are rich in cholesterol often contain high levels of saturated fats, which can indeed raise your cholesterol. Opt for plant-based alternatives like tofu and vegetables, which are low in saturated fat. Instead, prioritize fiber-rich foods including lentils and whole grains, and choose healthy unsaturated fats such as those found in avocados, olive oil, and nuts.

4) Misconception: Cholesterol management is achievable through diet and exercise alone, without the need for medication.

Reality: While a healthy lifestyle helps many people maintain good cholesterol levels, some may require cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as:

  • People with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) or very high LDL ("bad") cholesterol from a young age, increasing the risk of early heart disease.
  • Individuals with cardiovascular disease (CVD), who may benefit from cholesterol-lowering drugs to reduce heart attack and stroke risk.
  • People with type 2 diabetes, where low HDL and high LDL cholesterol elevate heart disease and stroke risk.

Although cholesterol is a necessary lipid for our body's functioning, high amounts can raise the risk of heart disease and stroke. Don't put it off any longer; act immediately. Get your cholesterol examined and speak with your doctor to learn what your cholesterol levels indicate. Your health is in your hands!