When it comes to cholesterol, what you don’t know can hurt you.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood. About 38% of American adults have high cholesterol -- but not all cholesterol is bad for you.
Human bodies actually need cholesterol to perform essential functions, such as making hormones and building cells. HDL, or “good cholesterol,” carries bad cholesterol back to the liver, which then flushes it from the body.
Having high levels of good cholesterol can lower your risk for stroke and heart disease.
Experts believe that lower levels of bad cholesterol, or LDL, are associated with a reduction in the risk of death, heart attack and stroke.
Another myth people believe is that if you aren’t overweight, you won’t develop high cholesterol. That’s false.
While cholesterol can be impacted by diet and weight, high cholesterol can also be genetic.
Many people believe they would know if they had high cholesterol, but that’s not true, either. High cholesterol doesn’t usually cause any symptoms until it causes problems, such as chest pain, a heart attack, stroke or even sudden death.
That’s why regular blood tests are important to detect high cholesterol early.
Another myth: Foods can raise cholesterol, but can’t lower it.
False! There are actually several foods that can help reduce cholesterol, including whole grains, beans, eggplant and okra.
Related: Heart-healthy foods to lower your cholesterol
It’s also a myth that you can’t do anything to change your cholesterol levels. Some people can improve them simply with diet and exercise, other people need medications called statins.
The bottom line: If you don’t know your cholesterol numbers, make an appointment with a doctor to get them checked out.
From 2020: FDA approves drug that lowers cholesterol in a new way