Myths about cholesterol and calcium — what you know about heart disease is wrong

Are you worried about heart disease? With an American dying from cardiovascular disease every 40 seconds, it’s understandable to be afraid of developing the condition that is now the leading cause of death throughout the world. Unfortunately, a lot of the information floating around about the disease and risk factors like cholesterol is outdated. Let’s separate fact from fiction so you can stack the odds in your favor.

Myth 1: High cholesterol causes heart disease

This is probably the biggest myth surrounding heart disease, and it’s difficult to change people’s minds about it because it has practically become conventional wisdom over the years. Unfortunately, the studies that initially showed such a link turned out be flawed, with one of the most influential studies, the Seven Countries Study of 1953, being one of the biggest offenders.

It turns out that data was actually taken from 22 countries, but the biased doctor heading up the study decided to only include the seven countries whose results supported his belief. How is it that cholesterol theory was based on such deception? People started avoiding red meat, animal fats, dairy foods, butter and eggs like the plague as a result, and there were still plenty of heart disease deaths.

Myth 2: Calcium supplementation prevents heart disease

Many people believe that calcium supplementation can prevent heart disease or a heart attack, but the science simply doesn’t back that up. However, there is an important distinction to be made here: Calcium, when it comes from your diet, can indeed decrease some people’s heart disease risk.

The calcium supplementation myth was debunked by a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that involved more than 4,000 participants over the course of nine years. In the study, researchers found that women who consumed higher calcium from dietary sources enjoyed a lower cardiovascular disease risk.

This effect was not seen in men, but an earlier study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association did show that a diet rich in calcium had a protective effect on cardiac health. In that study, those who ate the most calcium noted a 27 percent reduced risk of heart disease when compared to those who ate the least calcium.

Not only are calcium supplements not helping – they’re actually hurting. Taking calcium supplements can increase a person’s risk of plaque buildup in the arteries and heart damage; those participants who took the supplements noted a 22 percent higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Myth 3: Lowering your cholesterol with statins can extend your life

Statins are typically prescribed for people with high cholesterol, but they really aren’t doing much besides making money for pharmaceutical companies. They certainly aren’t prolonging people’s lives; research has shown there is no difference in the death rates of patients who take statins compared to those who do not. On top of that, they cause a slew of very serious side effects, including muscle pain, memory loss, fatigue, and libido loss.

Depending on your body and cholesterol numbers, it may be possible to address this situation through lifestyle changes alone. These might involve adopting a healthier diet, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking if you haven’t already kicked the habit. When it comes to your heart disease risk – not to mention your overall health – it’s hard to go wrong by adopting a healthy and active lifestyle.

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