By Lisa Collier Cool
Nov 26, 2012
Health Experts Main
Life insurance companies know a surprising secret about cholesterol that most doctors never tell patients: When it comes to rating your risk for a fatal heart attack, the least important cholesterol number is your level of LDL (bad) cholesterol. In fact, life insurance actuaries don’t even look at LDL levels, because large studies show it’s the worst predictor of heart attack risk. Instead, life insurance companies use a simple math formula to rate your heart attack risk: They divide your total cholesterol by the level of HDL (good) cholesterol. “If the ratio is below three, and there’s no inflammation in your arteries, you’re practically bulletproof against heart attacks and strokes, even if your LDL is high,” reports Amy Doneen, MSN, ARNP, medical director of the Heart Attack & Stroke Prevention Center in Spokane, Washington. Here’s a look at eight common cholesterol myths.
Myth: Cholesterol is inherently evil.
Fact: You couldn’t survive without cholesterol, since this waxy substance produced by the liver plays many essential roles in our body, from waterproofing cell membranes to helping produce vitamin D, bile acids that help you digest fat, and sex hormones, including testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. Cholesterol is ferried through your body by molecular “submarines” called lipoproteins, such as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Cholesterol: The Good, The Bad, The Essential
Myth: Low cholesterol is always a sign of good health.
Fact: Although low levels of LDL cholesterol are usually healthy, a new study reports that people who develop cancer typically have lower LDL in the years prior to diagnosis than those who don’t get cancer. Researchers compared 201 cancer patients to 402 control patients without cancer, matched by such factors as age, gender, smoking, blood pressure, diabetes, and body mass index. None of the...