Knowing your blood numbers is an important part of understanding your health. A good blood test will show sides of your physiology that you wouldn’t be able to detect on your own, and help you make decisions and changes to your health accordingly. Cholesterol levels are one of the most common tests done for all individuals in routine blood work. However, many people have misunderstandings about cholesterol and what the numbers actually mean. Let’s take a look at just a few of the many common misconceptions about cholesterol.
Myth 1: Cholesterol is Bad
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like molecule found in all cells in our bodies. It is produced by the liver, and is necessary for our bodies to produce cell membranes, vitamin D, many hormones, and more. The brain consists of about 25% of the total cholesterol found in our bodies. Good cholesterol has many health benefits, including regulating protein development, aiding in digestion, and forming connections between neurons in your brain and nervous system.
Myth 2: All Cholesterol is the Same
Cholesterol can be separated down many different ways, but I’ll keep it basic today. The main classes are High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL). HDL is considered good because it helps remove cholesterol from the cells and arteries to prevent plaque formation. LDL is more dangerous, as this is the type that builds up plaque and causes arterial damage. This is particularly true for small, dense forms of LDL, as they can easily get caught under the arterial wall, which creates plaque.
Myth 3: High Total Cholesterol Leads to Heart Disease
Not exactly. The classic value for the total cholesterol tipping point between healthy and unhealthy is 200mg/dl. This number is up for debate, and only knowing the total doesn’t really tell us much. Because there are different forms of cholesterol, each with a different function, it is more important to know your ratios. Total Cholesterol:HDL should be about 3:1, indicating there are enough good carriers (HDL) to bring cholesterol out of the blood. Triglycerides, or fat in the blood, are also important to evaluate here. The Triglyceride:HDL ratio is the most important predictor of a heart attack, and should ideally be below 2.
Myth 4: Cholesterol Comes from Diet
Some of it does, but the majority of our cholesterol is produced in the liver. Consuming dietary cholesterol (like eggs) does little to impact our cholesterol blood levels. When we consume cholesterol-rich foods, our livers slow down their production of cholesterol to balance out what we just ate. Furthermore, dietary cholesterol has been shown to have little to no correlation with high cholesterol blood numbers. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee states “cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”
Our office is currently taking an exciting step to utilize a company for very comprehensive blood analysis. This will help us help you by getting a detailed picture of your physiology so we can make the best recommendations for each individual. Contact us for more information.