Why Your Cholesterol Matters In Your 20s and 30s

Cholesterol (via tellumo)

Every year I get my physical and the doctor says "your cholesterol is borderline high," and I say, "I'll work on that," and then I go away for the next 11 months and don't really change much. I figure I'm young, my cholesterol is only borderline high, I'm healthy otherwise, so what's the big deal? If you're in my camp, listen up. A new study published yesterday says the big deal is, uh, death. Researchers at UCSF followed more than 3,000 men and women aged 18 to 30 for two decades and found that those with even "modestly elevated cholesterol levels" during their younger years were significantly more likely to develop atherosclerosis later in life. Reminder: Atherosclerosis and heart attacks are best friends. Most doctors have been sort of on my side till now, as in, it'd be great if I lowered my cholesterol, but they're not freaking out about it. Expect that to change. As one of the study's authors puts it, explaining that we need to start intervening earlier: "Our evidence shows that young adulthood is an important time because lasting damage already starts to accumulate at this age." Fish and fiber, here I come. 


i've been reading a lot about this lately...while, yes, cholesterol and heart attacks seem to be linked so that higher cholesterol = higher chance of death by heart attack, higher cholesterol at the same times seems to have a protective effect again other types of death (like cancer). so, in the end, higher cholesterol actually seems to be associated with lower mortality rates.

the cholesterol myth is BS based on what i've read. so, i'll keep eating my eggs and bacon, thank-you-very-much.

msh258's picture

I joined my gym based solely on my cholesterol level.  It's a true story.  I stopped by a women's health fair on a whim at Grand Central and had my blood levels checked. My cholesterol checked out high.  Two tables over was a representative from NYSC.

zuzupetals's picture

First of all, are you not supposed to fast before you have your cholesterol levels checked??  I am wary of any doctor who would have a patient test for cholesterol or glucose levels just after they've eaten.  A friend called me in tears the other day because a "doctor" had told her her glucose level was 415 or thereabouts and told her that she was suprised that my friend wasn't dead.  Turns out "doctor" tested her levels 1/2 an hour after she ate, did not advise that her that they would be elevated because she just ate, and proceeded to threaten her.  my friend's glucose is still high, but not THAT high.  MY POINT: I'm wary of what doctors and studies say nowadays.  It seems that they love to put the fear of God into us whenever they can.  After all, it makes them money, and medicine today is a business.  Morals and ethics rarely make an appearance.

Second, while it is true that we should pay close attention to our cholesterol levels for various reasons, it is also true that we need to stop pumping ourselves full of fake butter, bacon, etc. in order to do that.  Put down the pint of ice cream so that this weekend you can have your real eggs and your real bacon and butter.  Prioritize.

mariposa_3676's picture

Oil. Go figure. I've been trying the oil thing, taking a Tbspn of Walnut oil a day a Tbspn of Safflower oil a day, and now 1 tspn of Cod Liver oil a day. I'm not worried about cholesterol, but I get my cholesterol tested when I donate blood on the west coast. In January it was 148. I started w/ the oil thing in June and on July 14 my cholesterol came in at 119. This is after loading up on BBQ beef, paté and shrimp the week before. And when I've had the HDL/LDL breakdown, again unexpected, my doctor said I must exercise because that's the only way I could have the "A+" ratio between the two. Thank you again, SW.

spindig's picture

I just came back from the dr & my cholestrol is high for the first time ever. I am blaming it on the fact that I ate a lobster roll every day for a week the week before I had my blood checked, but my 3 month follow up blood test will tell the truth.

vonhottie's picture

I'm still amazed at how ubiquitous the "dietary cholesterol" thing still is. Dietary cholesterol has little impact on your blood cholesterol. What does raise cholesterol is saturated fats. So keep enjoying your lobster and shrimp, they are actually very healthy even though high in cholesterol. Red meat, on the other hand, which is high in saturated fat, is bad.

jory's picture

the research is not clear cut that saturated fat causes high fact, based on personal experience, i'd have to give a very clear: it doesn't. since going paleo, i've been eating more meats and saturated fats than ever before, and my cholesterol levels are the best they've ever been. take a look for an overview of some unconventional opinions and links to research on saturdated fat here. good calories, bad calories by gary taubes presents an incredibly well-argued scientific account of how the faulty cholesterol / saturated fat hypotheses became entrenched in the public mind and how it is actually the over-consumption of carbs that can much better explain health issues that are currently attributed to fat and cholesterol.

msh258's picture