August 22, 2022

5 Myths (and Facts) About Cholesterol

Key Takeaways

  • Cholesterol plays an important role in your body. All your cells and hormones need it to function properly, and it helps the liver manufacture fat-processing acids.
  • High cholesterol doesn’t have symptoms like a cold or the flu does. In fact, high cholesterol rarely presents symptoms at all.
  • Exercise, eating a healthy balanced diet, and avoiding unhealthy lifestyle choices like smoking tobacco and heavily drinking alcohol can all have a direct impact on your cholesterol levels.
  • At-home cholesterol blood tests are a reliable and accurate way to monitor cholesterol levels.

Looking to improve your cholesterol levels, but having a hard time separating myth from reality? That’s understandable, after all, with so much information available out there, it can be difficult to understand everything there is to know about cholesterol and how it affects your body and health. 

That’s why we’ve answered five of the common myths about cholesterol with the facts you need to know. 

 

Myth: All cholesterol is bad for you

Fact: Cholesterol plays an important role in your body. All your cells and hormones need it to function properly, and it helps the liver manufacture fat-processing acids. There are two types of cholesterol; one is good for you and the other…not so much. 

There’s the bad kind of cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and the good kind, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL). If your body has too much of the bad kind (LDL) it can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke by building up on the walls of your blood vessels. This buildup is called plaque, and, overtime, it can restrict blood flow to your heart and cause angina (chest pain) or a heart attack. 

Good cholesterol (HDL), on the other hand, helps remove other forms of cholesterol from your body by carrying it to the liver so it can be flushed from the body.  

 

Myth: You can detect if you have high cholesterol

Fact: High cholesterol doesn’t have symptoms like a cold or the flu does. In fact, high cholesterol rarely presents symptoms at all. Most people don’t even know they have high cholesterol until it’s too late - when they’ve had a heart attack or stroke. 

That’s why it’s so important to check your cholesterol levels to ensure they’re at the appropriate level for your age. Starting at the age of 20, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you have your cholesterol checked every five years if you are at low risk of cardiovascular disease. 

However, if you are at risk of any of the following, or have a family history of these conditions, you should test your cholesterol more frequently. 

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attacks
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) 

 

Myth: The food you eat has little impact on your cholesterol 

Fact: Food made from animals contains cholesterol. For example, meat, poultry, and dairy products all contain dietary cholesterol. However, there are some nuances between what type of food contains good cholesterol versus bad cholesterol. 

Many foods with high cholesterol also contain high levels of saturated fats. Saturated fats can have a significant impact on your cholesterol levels and cause them to rise. A few examples of foods with high saturated fat include butter, red meat, fried and processed food, and cheese. 

Instead, you should aim to eat foods with plenty of fiber and healthy unsaturated fats. This includes fruits and vegetables, nuts, fatty fish, avocados, olive oil, and more. We covered the topic of foods high in good cholesterol in another article that you can find here

 

Myth: There’s nothing you can do to change your cholesterol levels 

Fact: There are plenty of ways you can change your cholesterol levels. Exercise, eating a healthy balanced diet, and avoiding unhealthy lifestyle choices like smoking tobacco and heavily drinking alcohol can all have a direct impact on your cholesterol levels. Similarly, losing weight can reduce your cholesterol levels. 

For some, these lifestyle and dietary changes may not be enough. Your doctor may recommend cholesterol medication called statins to lower total cholesterol levels and support your heart health. However, it's important to remember that cholesterol-lowering medications are not a cure-all. The best way to see more benefits from the medication is to continue living a healthy lifestyle and diet. 

It's also recommended that you check your cholesterol levels every five years to help keep track of where your cholesterol levels are so you can make lifestyle adjustments if necessary. However, if you have elevated risk factors, screening should be done annually. Talking to your doctor and describing your family history will also help with understanding your risk of heart disease and if you need medication to better manage your cholesterol. 

Myth: Young, healthy individuals don't need to worry about cholesterol

Fact: It's true that the risk for high cholesterol increases with age, but high cholesterol does not discriminate - even if you are young and healthy. Especially, if there is family history of high cholesterol or heart disease.

If you do have a family history of high cholesterol, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children receive their first cholesterol screening between ages 9 and 11. That way, doctors can have a baseline to determine if you need to make dietary adjustments early on.  

The truth of the matter is, as you age, your metabolism changes and the liver does not remove as much LDL cholesterol as it once did. Additionally, extra body weight can also increase the risk of heart disease by slowing down the body's ability to remove LDL cholesterol.

Bonus Myth: At-home cholesterol blood tests aren’t accurate

Fact:  Generally, the reliability of FDA-approved (Food and Drug Administration) home cholesterol test kits varies. Some are as accurate as the test you would receive at a doctor’s office, however, often, the accuracy of your results rely on how closely you follow instructions.  

Fortunately, at-home cholesterol blood tests through mobile phlebotomy services like Getlabs are as accurate as any test you would receive at a doctor’s office. Even more so, the blood draw is performed by a trained and experienced mobile phlebotomist, so you can be confident that the test is being performed correctly. 

Receive at-home cholesterol blood tests with Getlabs 

Cholesterol can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. Understanding how cholesterol works and how to make healthy lifestyle adjustments to improve your cholesterol levels is the first step towards living a heart-healthy lifestyle. To accurately track your cholesterol levels, it’s important to get accurate results - and Getlabs can help. 

Getlabs offers a safe, convenient, and confidential way to get an accurate cholesterol blood test at home by delivering healthcare to you. A mobile phlebotomist will draw your test sample from the comfort of your home and drop off the sample at Labcorp or Quest

Check out Getlabs FAQ page to learn more about at-home mobile phlebotomy and schedule an appointment below to get started today. 

Book an Appointment

Getlabs delivers healthcare to you. Our specialists come to you to collect your labs and deliver them to Labcorp and Quest for testing. We’re available same-day, nationwide.

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