You hear a lot about cholesterol, and you know there’s a bad kind and a good kind. But beyond that, do you know fact from fiction? Take this quiz to learn about some common cholesterol misconceptions, and get ready to improve the state of your heart.
1. The more anxiety and stress you have in your life, the more they can negatively affect your cardiovascular system, including your cholesterol levels.
While more research is needed to connect stress to a healthy -- or unhealthy -- heart, an indirect connection makes this statement a fact: The more stressed out you are, the more likely you are to overeat and choose unhealthy foods. Both can raise cholesterol levels.
2. A food product marked “low cholesterol” must be good for you, right?
This one is a bit of fact and fiction. The FDA requires that any food product labeled “low cholesterol” must have less than 20 mg of cholesterol per serving and 2 grams or less of saturated fat. But if you’re not keeping an eye on what you eat, those amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat can add up. The American Heart Association (AHA) says people with heart disease should limit their daily intake to less than 200 mg of low-cholesterol foods (300 mg for those with high cholesterol and no heart disease).
Total fiction. Doing nothing puts you at risk, since physical inactivity is a risk factor for heart disease. The AHA recommends getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. Pressed for time? It’s OK to break your exercise into 10- or 15-minute sessions. The important thing is just to do it.
4. It doesn’t matter what you buy at the grocery store -- all food is bad for you when it comes to cholesterol.
This is food fiction. If you steer your cart clear of certain foods and pick up plenty of others, you’ll be doing your heart a favor. These foods should top your grocery list: oatmeal, salmon and tuna, nuts, low-fat dairy products, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and foods fortified with plant sterols. All help lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and improve your overall numbers. In fact, a meal plan combining these foods might be as effective at managing your cholesterol as medication.
5. Kids don’t have to worry about high cholesterol; only adults do.
Fiction again. Since plaque buildup in blood vessel walls can begin in childhood, the AHA recommends children with a family history of high cholesterol or early heart disease be screened for high cholesterol as young as age 2. In addition, children considered overweight or obese should be screened. Being active and eating healthy foods can help; kids should be encouraged to exercise 30 to 60 minutes at least four days a week and given at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Even if you don’t have a family history of heart disease, the AHA recommends all individuals age 20 years and up have their cholesterol levels measured at least once every five years.