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What Seniors Should Know About Cholesterol

Eggs are bad! No, eggs are good! No, just the egg yolks are bad! If you follow health news even a little or simply keep up with regular doctor appointments, then you have likely heard all kinds of statements about eggs and other “controversial” foods and their effects on your heart and health.  But where does the cholesterol in your body actually come from and might lowering it actually negatively affect your hormones and metabolism?

Where does the cholesterol in your body come from?

Your liver produces all the cholesterol your body needs to function and it will tend to produce more cholesterol when you eat foods high in saturated fat, but that’s not the only reason it might do this. Studies have shown that genetics and a family history can be responsible for high cholesterol levels even more than the foods you eat.  In fact, the liver is responsible for 75% of cholesterol produced and foods and other factors are only responsible for 25% of what is in your body. To learn more about the connection between genetics and cholesterol read here: Genetic factors and cholesterol.

What is cholesterol’s role in the body?

Not all cholesterol is bad. Cholesterol actually plays a vital role in cell membrane production and is essential for healthy cells including for certain hormones. It is also responsible for:

Aiding Digestion:

Cholesterol helps form bile which helps you digest foods and absorb nutrients.

Turning Sunlight into Vitamin D:

Cholesterol helps your body create vitamin D which is essential for strong bones and calcium production.

Estrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone:

All three of these hormones play a role in making you look and feel younger and maintaining your weight and metabolism. Your body’s production of these decreases as you age, so lowering your cholesterol may also affect your hormones. Learn more about how increasing cholesterol can actually help your hormonal balance.

Who decided cholesterol was bad?

The “proof” that is often cited about the connection between cholesterol and heart health comes from studies conducted in the early to mid-20th century and the findings aren’t holding up that well today.

The Study:

One of the first studies to give evidence of the negative effects of cholesterol was done in 1913 where rabbits were fed cholesterol and developed plaque in their heart.

Why it might be false:

A big issue with this study is that no one questioned the fact that rabbits are herbivores and are therefore not biologically setup to process cholesterol.

The Study:

The Ancel Keys 7 Countries Study conducted several decades later concluded that a diet high in fat led to heart disease based on the idea that countries, where fat consumption was highest, also had the highest rate of heart disease.

Why it might be false:

The trouble with the 7 Countries Study is that Keys only used information that supported his hypothesis. He opted to ignore the countries, where fat consumption was high but heart disease was low (Norway and Holland) and also countries where fat consumption low and heart disease high (Chile).

A more recent study was conducted to analyze other cholesterol findings and actually found a high percentage of instances where low LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) actually seemed connected to a higher mortality rate. Read more here: Study says there’s no link between cholesterol and heart disease and here The Cholesterol Myths that May be Harming Your Health.

Controlling cholesterol through exercise

As we age, cholesterol tends to increase and your doctor has likely prescribed you one or more medications known as “statins” in order to lower your cholesterol. Unfortunately, these medications can have a variety of side effects, including muscle pain/weakness and liver damage. Consider talking to your physician about starting an exercise routine to help reduce your cholesterol naturally. You can get started with our list of Exercises you Can do While Watching TV.

The conflicting reports on cholesterol and other nutritional data can be confusing, but one of the best ways to get the nutrition you need and also have food options you will love is to live in a Life Plan Community like The Cedars of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. With a full-time Registered Dietician and expertly prepared menus by its chefs, The Cedars is dedicated to your health and happiness. Visit today to find out more about living your best retirement life.

Photo Attribute: Jynto, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cholesterol_molecule_ball.png