Everyone knows that cholesterol is serious stuff and that elevated blood cholesterol is bad for health. You know that you need to get your levels checked regularly and that high levels increase your risk of heart disease. Although you may know some basic facts about cholesterol, there are a few things that you may have no idea about it. Here are some surprising facts about cholesterol.
High cholesterol could be genetic: Genetics are the most common cause for high levels of LDL “bad cholesterol” and triglycerides. When you eat foods that contain cholesterol, like meat, fish, and dairy, your body automatically gets rid of the excess. But how much cholesterol you get rid of depends on your genes. People with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), for example — an inherited condition that affects about 1 in 200 people and results in very high cholesterol that requires aggressive treatments.— can’t effectively lose the excess.
Even Children Can Have High Cholesterol: Plaque buildup in arteries begins in childhood and progresses into adulthood. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends cholesterol screening for all kids between ages 9 and 11. For children at high risk of having cholesterol issues, screening should be done earlier.
Cholesterol can be too low: Everyone knows that high cholesterol is bad, but very low cholesterol can be unhealthy too. Experts recommend that you keep your total cholesterol under 200 mg/dL, which is about the average for adults. However, below a certain level—generally 160 mg/dL—low cholesterol is associated with health risks, including cancer. Research shows that some pregnant women with low total cholesterol are more likely to give birth prematurely. Low total cholesterol and LDL levels have even been linked to anxiety and depression.
Cholesterol-free foods can raise your cholesterol: Cholesterol is made by the liver of animals, and it will only be found in animal-based foods, such as meat, milk, and eggs. Certain products can honestly state that they have little or no cholesterol, but that doesn’t mean they are good for your cholesterol levels.
Many fried foods and commercial baked goods contain cholesterol-raising trans fats. Trans fats and saturated fats, are the main reasons of high cholesterol from food, but they won’t be listed as cholesterol on packaging.
In women, cholesterol levels often rise after menopause: Before menopause, most women tend to have total cholesterol levels that are lower than men of the same age. But after menopause, hormone changes can cause LDL to rise and HDL to decline. By age 75, women tend to have higher cholesterol levels than men.