Can you tell fact from fiction when it comes to cholesterol and your health? Answer the questions below to find out your cholesterol IQ.
True or False?
- My body makes all the cholesterol it needs.
- Foods labeled low cholesterol are low in fat.
- Even people who are thin are at risk for high cholesterol.
- The higher your levels of triglycerides — a fat found in the bloodstream and fat tissue — the better.
- People should start cholesterol screening at age 20.
- Symptoms of high cholesterol include headaches and weight gain.
- Taking medicine is the only thing people need to do to reduce high cholesterol.
- True. Your body, especially your liver, makes all the cholesterol it needs. Cholesterol — a waxy substance found in your blood — also comes from some of the foods we eat. The amount of cholesterol your liver makes depends on the types of foods you eat.
- False. Many foods labeled “low cholesterol” may be high in saturated fats, which contribute to high cholesterol levels in the blood. We need some fat in our diets, but when you add fat, opt for monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil. Try to keep the amount of fat in your diet to between 20 and 30 percent of your daily calorie intake (1 tablespoon of monounsaturated fat per meal).
- True. Anyone with any body type can have high cholesterol. High cholesterol can be a genetic (or inherited) trait. People who have family members with high cholesterol may be at higher risk for having high cholesterol themselves. While people who are overweight are more likely to have high cholesterol, thin people should regularly be screened for high cholesterol, too.
- False. High triglyceride levels, 200 mg/dL and above, contribute to hardening of the arteries. Aim for levels less than 150 mg/dL.
- True. Atherosclerosis, or arterial clogging, occurs over many years, so it’s important to start checking total cholesterol starting at age 20. If your levels are within normal ranges and you have no other risk factors for heart disease, have your total cholesterol checked at least every five years or according to your doctor’s recommendation.
- False. Often, people don’t know their cholesterol is too high, because they don’t have any symptoms. That’s why it’s important to have your cholesterol checked regularly by your health care provider.
- False. Lifestyle habits are a major factor in determining your cholesterol levels, and you can change them to take better control of your health. Your doctor will ask about your lifestyle habits, such as whether you smoke, are overweight or eat foods that are high in saturated and trans fats. If your cholesterol is still too high after quitting smoking, losing weight, being physically active and eating a heart-healthy diet, your doctor may prescribe medication. Maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle is important, even if you’re taking cholesterol-lowering medication.