It’s time to bust open a few common myths and misconceptions about cholesterol:
Myth #1: All cholesterol is evil. That’s False! Experts say that we literally couldn’t survive without cholesterol. Because our bodies use it to do everything from waterproof our cell membranes, to produce vitamin D, to help digest fats.
Another cholesterol myth: North Americans have the world’s highest cholesterol levels. No! Most of us have cholesterol numbers that are higher than our doctors would like, but according to the World Health Organization, we rank number 82 in the world. Men with the highest cholesterol live in Columbia. And for women, there’s a four-way tie for highest cholesterol levels between Israel, Libya, Norway, and Uruguay.
And this final cholesterol fact surprises a lot of people: Even if you’ve got high bad-for-you LDL levels – you’re not necessarily headed for a heart attack. According to the Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention Center, high LDL levels are such poor predictors of heart-attack risk that life insurance companies don’t even look at them when they issue policies. Instead, they take your total cholesterol, and divide it by the levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
If the ratio is below three, and there’s no inflammation in your arteries, experts say your risk for heart attack and stroke is almost zero. And that’s true no matter how high your bad LDL cholesterol is.