Cholesterol—What Affects It and What Doesn’t?

10/22/2019 | 3 min. read

Dr. Stephen Sinatra

Dr. Stephen Sinatra

When it comes to heart health, cholesterol isn’t the villain. Every system and cell in your body needs cholesterol to function properly. In fact, driving your cholesterol numbers too low with statin medications can hurt your brain, immune system, metabolism, and more.

Yet, that doesn’t mean you can completely ignore your cholesterol. You want to make sure your doctor is performing the right cholesterol tests and is watching the right ratios—ones that go far beyond your HDL-LDL ratio. 

I also wanted to answer the most common lifestyle questions I get about cholesterol, so you know which factors can influence your health—and which to ignore.

Will Eggs Raise Your Cholesterol?

If you avoid eggs because of their cholesterol content, you’re not alone. Many people still carry the misconception that the cholesterol in egg yolks will negatively impact their cholesterol. Yet, the truth is eggs are a heart-healthy food choice.

Eggs are filled with high-quality protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Plus, egg yolks contain choline which is important for brain health.

Many studies over the years have found that egg consumption doesn’t impact heart risk factors. Plus, one study suggests that eating up to an egg a day may even decrease cardiovascular risk factors, compared to egg abstainers. 

How many eggs should you eat? I recommend eating up to 4-6 eggs per week—choosing organic, cage-free eggs when possible.

Does Oatmeal Lower Your Cholesterol?

If you’ve noticed a heart on your oatmeal package and wondered if it can improve your cholesterol, yes it can. Oats contain soluble fiber which helps to reduce LDL cholesterol. Plus, it contains heart-healthy omega-3s and beta glucans that support healthy cholesterol and immunity.

For your morning oatmeal, choose steel-cut oats that are minimally processed and contain more fiber than processed oats. One of my favorite ways to eat it is by making Heart-Healthy Overnight Oatmeal

Are Bananas Good for Cholesterol?

Many people wonder if bananas are good for cholesterol, and the answer is maybe. Like oatmeal, bananas contain fiber—so theoretically they may support healthy cholesterol levels.

But the real heart-health benefits of bananas come from its potassium content. Potassium enables your blood vessels to contract and relax as they should, which helps you maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

Does Stress Cause High Cholesterol?

We often focus on the connection between blood pressure and stress, but did you know that stress can also affect your cholesterol?

In a study released in 2017, researchers looked at the effect of psychological stress on blood lipid levels. What they found is that the workers with the highest levels of stress had higher levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and lower levels of helpful HDL cholesterol. 

One explanation for this correlation is that when we’re under stress our bodies release cholesterol which may lead to increased cholesterol levels. Plus, stress can often lead to coping mechanisms that increase cholesterol, such as making poor food choices.

Does Drinking Water Lower Cholesterol?

Drinking plenty of water is important for maintaining healthy blood pressure, but can it also help your cholesterol? 

Some people have suggested that hydration affects cholesterol because when you’re dehydrated it decreases blood volume. So, cholesterol sticks to the arterial walls rather than moving through your bloodstream as it should. While this is an interesting hypothesis, I haven’t seen solid science to back it up.

Yet, regardless of whether drinking water directly impacts cholesterol, staying hydrated is important to your overall health. It impacts blood pressure, aids digestion, and enables your entire body to function as it should. So, for your overall health you want to drink about eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily.

Dr. Stephen Sinatra

Meet Dr. Stephen Sinatra

Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a highly respected and sought-after cardiologist and nutritionist with more than 30 years of clinical practice, research, and study. His integrative approach to heart health focuses on reducing inflammation in the body and maximizing the heart's ability to produce and use energy.

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