How much do you really know about cholesterol? We’re here to unpack the myths so you know what’s important to keep your heart healthy.
If you have a healthy diet and get enough exercise, your cholesterol will stay low.
Fact: It’s true that a healthy lifestyle can help keep LDL cholesterol down. But that is not the only thing that impacts cholesterol. If high cholesterol runs in your family, diet and exercise may not be enough. Getting older and not maintaining a healthy weight can also raise your numbers.
Only older men need to worry about cholesterol.
Fact: Anyone — both men and women — can have high LDL cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends that doctors check the cholesterol levels of kids starting at age 9. After age 20, your doctor should check your cholesterol at least every 4-6 years. If you have risk factors for high cholesterol, your doctor may need to check you more often.
If your doctor hasn’t mentioned your cholesterol, it must be fine.
Fact: You are in charge of your health. Ask your doctor to talk with you about risk factors for heart disease. This can help you figure out your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. Your doctor can also tell you if it is time for you to have a blood test to check your cholesterol numbers.
Cutting cholesterol from your diet is the best way to improve your numbers.
Fact: Saturated fat raises your LDL cholesterol more than anything else you eat. Saturated fat is found mostly in foods that come from animals like meat and cheese. Trans fat, found in packaged foods like crackers and cakes, also raises cholesterol. Foods that are high in soluble fiber, like oats, barley, fruits, and vegetables, can help lower cholesterol. (Download our 1-Day Meal Plan for Managing Cholesterol.)
If you’re on cholesterol medications, a healthy diet and exercise aren’t important.
Fact: Drugs like statins can help lower your LDL cholesterol levels. But food and activity are also important pieces of the puzzle. Eat a diet that is low in saturated and trans fats and high in soluble fiber. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. If you smoke, quitting can also help. (Get resources to help you quit.)