The Polyclinic celebrates Heart Month
February 14, 2018 | by Elizabeth Chan MD, FACC

Cholesterol is a top priority for maintaining strong heart health. Research and guidelines continue to show a strong correlation between high cholesterol and increased risk for heart attack or stroke.

Celebrating Valentine's Day and American Heart Month

We're celebrating Valentine's Day and strong heart health with lights in the shape of a giant heart on the south side of our Madison Center location. The red heart lights represent how much we love our patients and the importance of making heart-healthy decisions to prevent heart disease.

It’s important to review your cholesterol levels with your physician. You may notice there are several "numbers” to be aware of. A few myths have created confusion about the importance of all of these numbers. Below are four common myths about cholesterol – debunked.

Myths about Cholesterol

Myth #1: Total cholesterol is the only number that matters.

  • FACT: Total cholesterol has been associated with an increased risk for heart attack and stroke as it climbs above 200. The total cholesterol reported is the sum of both the “good” and “bad” cholesterol--it may not tell the full story. Current guidelines now recommend a full cholesterol panel to assess individual risk.
  • Myth #2: The LDL or “bad cholesterol” number is no longer important, according to recent guidelines.

  • FACT: In 2013, the American College of Cardiology and The American Heart Association published guidelines that changed the focus of cholesterol treatment. These guidelines focus on use of statin medications as the treatment doses studied to reduce long-term cardiovascular risk versus prior guidelines, which focused on lowering the bad cholesterol to a specific target. The level of LDL is still very important in risk assessment. The higher the LDL cholesterol is, the higher one’s risk of heart attack and stroke is. Treatment strategies aim to lower LDL by at least 50 percent in high-risk individuals.
  • Myth #3: If HDL or “good” cholesterol is high enough, it can outweigh any “bad” cholesterol present.

  • FACT: There is research that supports low “good” cholesterol as a major risk factor of heart attack and stroke. Currently there is not sufficient evidence that raising “good” cholesterol will decrease risk of heart attack and stroke. Aim to integrate healthy lifestyle recommendations. These include no smoking, exercising 30 minutes at least five times a week, and focusing on a heart healthy diet, which includes avoiding trans fats and substituting, in moderation, “healthier” fats (avocados, walnuts, fish oil). However, having naturally high levels of “good” cholesterol may not protect one from heart attack or stroke if other risk factors are present.
  • Myth #4: Having high triglycerides is not of any concern.

  • FACT: Elevated triglycerides can occur in the setting of common conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and hypothyroidism. Elevated triglycerides can also coexist with less common causes such as some medications, alcohol overuse, a genetic cause, or with a type of renal disease such as nephrotic syndrome. Elevated levels of triglycerides have been associated with long-term increased presence of cholesterol burden in the arteries and cardiovascular events. When triglycerides are very high (greater than 1,000) you have an increased risk of acute pancreatitis, a potentially serious condition. When triglycerides are higher than 200, the “NonHDL” measurement is a better measure of how much of the “bad” lipids are circulating in the blood. The “NonHDL” cholesterol is the total cholesterol minus the “good” cholesterol and therefore assesses “all the bad” cholesterol associated with high triglycerides or even low “good” cholesterol.

  • Heart Healthy Resources