Cholesterol levels: Do not get lost in numbers

Dont lose sleep over your cholesterol numbersChecking cholesterol is a good way to help prevent heart attacks and strokes, but widespread media frenzy around the subject has created some kind of obsession with the numbers that is not healthy for the population. The real intent and goal of checking cholesterol seems to have been lost in the obsession for perfect numbers.

Many people simply believe that the cholesterol score is the ultimate heath score. They think that the biggest health goal is to achieve the best cholesterol score. They seem to have forgotten the real reason why we test the cholesterol numbers in the first place.

Here is a reminder for you: we check cholesterol to measure one of the several risk factors for heart attack and strokes. The problem with most people obsessed with cholesterol numbers is that they forget that there are other things besides cholesterol that increases the risk of heart attacks. One of the most important risk factor for heart attacks is stress.

Stress is the number one killer responsible for all kinds of diseases including heart attacks and strokes. People’s obsession with cholesterol number these days is so high that it has become one of the most important factor causing stress in a lot of patients. There are some patients that take it to the extreme.

I have seen people so obsessed with the cholesterol numbers that they demand to get it checked every month and are willing to pay out of pocket for the tests. They celebrate and party by binging on alcohol if the cholesterol numbers go down by 10 points, and they get depressed and self treat the depression by smoking cigarettes when the numbers go up by 10 points.  

Even when we ignore these extreme examples, cholesterol numbers are real stressors  in the lives of many patients. 

The key here is to understand that the real goal is to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, not to pursue the perfect cholesterol score. There are many other things you can do to reduce your risks besides getting your cholesterol optimized. Smoking is one of the most important cause of heart attacks and it is way more powerful than a 10 point jump in cholesterol number. Similarly, stress can increase your chances of heart attacks significantly more than a 10 point rise in cholesterol does. Lack of physical activity can increase your risk greatly independent of your cholesterol levels. Not eating enough fruits and vegetables can increase your chance of getting a heart attack despite having a perfect cholesterol score. Being overweight and having diabetes can give you heart attack regardless of your cholesterol numbers.

If you really want to get healthy, you need to look at all the risk factors and try to optimize all of them. Yes, checking cholesterol and taking medicine to optimize the numbers is important However, if you focus your attention to all the other risk factors and not just get stressed over a few points fluctuation in your cholesterol number, you would be doing yourself a huge favor.

Are you obsessed with your cholesterol numbers? Do you get distressed over a minor fluctuation in your cholesterol numbers?

Please share your opinion here.