Heart Association has published information about common
misconceptions about Cholesterol. I am sure some of these will sound
1. Using margarine
instead of butter will help lower my cholesterol.
Both margarine and butter are high in fat, so use both in
moderation. From a dietary perspective, the major factor affecting
blood cholesterol is how much saturated fat is in the food. Reducing
your intake of saturated fat is key to helping control cholesterol.
Most soft or liquid margarines have less saturated fat and are
preferable to the stick forms for a heart-healthy diet. It's best to
select trans fat-free margarines. However, eat all fatty foods in
2. Thin people
donít have to worry about high cholesterol.
Overweight people are more likely to have high cholesterol from
eating too many fatty foods, but thin people should also have their
cholesterol checked regularly. Often people who donít gain weight
easily are less aware of how much saturated fat they eat. Nobody can
ďeat anything they wantĒ and stay heart healthy. Have your
cholesterol checked regularly regardless of your weight, exercise
habits and diet. Learn more about what you can do to manage your
3. My doctor
hasnít said anything about my cholesterol, so I donít have to worry.
Unfortunately, not all physicians are as proactive about healthy
lifestyles as they should be. Your health is your responsibility.
Make sure that you have a blood cholesterol test and learn how to
interpret all the numbers, including HDL (good) cholesterol, LDL
(bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels. If youíre in a high or
borderline-high range, discuss options with your physician. You may
be able to control the levels by eating a diet lower in saturated
fat and cholesterol, getting 30Ė60 minutes of physical activity on
most days and quitting smoking. If lifestyle changes alone donít
work, your physician may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering
4. Since the
nutrition label on my favorite food says thereís no cholesterol, I
can be sure that itís a ďheart-healthyĒ choice.
Nutrition labels on food are very helpful when choosing
heart-healthy foods, but you need to know what to look for. Many
ďlow-cholesterolĒ foods contain high levels of saturated fat or
trans fatty acids ó both of which contribute to high blood
cholesterol. Even foods that claim to be ďlow-fatĒ may have a higher
fat content than expected. Look for the amount of saturated fat,
total fat, cholesterol and total calories in a serving of the
product. Also check how much a serving is. Often itís smaller than
you think. The first ingredient listed is the one used most in the
product, so choose products where fats and oils appear later in the
ingredient listing. The Food and Drug Administration will require
foods to be labelled for trans fats by 2006. Many manufacturers have
already begun doing this. Trans fats are found in variable amounts
in most foods with partially hydrogenated oils such as baked goods,
fried foods and some margarines and dairy products. Know your fats.
5. Since I started
taking medication for my high cholesterol, I donít have to worry
about what I eat.
Unless your cholesterol is dangerously high, it's best to try to
reduce it by changing your diet. Drug therapy is usually prescribed
for those who ó despite adequate dietary changes, regular physical
activity and weight loss ó still have elevated levels of
cholesterol. Modern medications have come a long way in helping to
control blood cholesterol levels, but making lifestyle changes along
with taking medication is the best way to help prevent heart
disease. Reducing the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in
your diet and getting 30Ė60 minutes of exercise on most or all days
of the week is recommended, even if youíre taking
cholesterol-lowering medication. Itís also very important to take
your medication exactly as your doctor has instructed so it can work
6. I recently read
that eggs arenít so bad for your cholesterol after all, so I guess I
can go back to having my two eggs for breakfast every morning.
One egg contains about 213 milligrams of dietary cholesterol. Thatís
a lot given that the daily recommended cholesterol limit is 300
milligrams. An egg a day can fit within heart-healthy guidelines
only if cholesterol from other sources, such as meats, poultry and
dairy products, is limited. For example, eating one egg for
breakfast, drinking two cups of coffee with one tablespoon of
half-and-half each, lunching on four ounces of lean turkey breast
without skin and one tablespoon of mayonnaise, and having a 6-ounce
serving of broiled, short loin porterhouse steak for dinner would
account for about 510 mg of dietary cholesterol that day ó nearly
twice the recommended limit. If youíre going to eat an egg every
morning, substitute vegetables for some of the meat, or drink your
coffee without half-and-half.
7. Iím a woman so I
donít have to worry. High cholesterol is a manís problem.
Premenopausal women are usually protected from high LDL (bad) levels
of cholesterol, because the female hormone estrogen tends to raise
HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Postmenopausal women may find that
even a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise arenít enough to keep
their cholesterol from rising. If youíre approaching menopause, itís
especially important to have your cholesterol checked and talk with
your doctor about your options. Postmenopausal hormone therapy (PHT,
formerly called hormone replacement therapy or HRT) is not
recommended to prevent heart disease and may not be the best answer
for every woman.
8. You donít need to
have your cholesterol checked until you reach middle age.
Itís a good idea to start having your cholesterol checked at an
early age. Even children, especially those in families with a
history of heart disease, can have high cholesterol levels. Evidence
exists that these children are at greater risk for developing heart
disease as adults. Lack of exercise, poor dietary habits and
genetics can all affect a childís cholesterol levels. Youíre never
too young to develop a heart-healthy lifestyle by eating foods low
in saturated fats, getting 30Ė60 minutes of physical activity on
most or all days, and avoiding tobacco products.