A panel of doctors from across the country who met last week, believe that cholesterol will not be something only middle-aged adults worry about but young children as well, according to a recent Des Moines Register article by Tony Leys.
The panel recommended that children between the ages of 9 and 11 get their cholesterol levels tested. They also recommend that they get tested later on between the ages of 17 and 21.
“I won’t just test an individual’s cholesterol levels without a reason such as family history or another medical problem,” said LuAnn Volkmer, a nurse practitioner at the Drake University Student Health Center. “A lot of students don’t come here for preventative health care they come here for urgent care. Not routinely do I do a lipid panel.”
Cholesterol levels, at any age, are tested through blood draws. Usually a lipid panel is taken, which is what the health center uses for students. A lipid panel looks at cholesterol, high-density lipoproteins and low-density lipoproteins. It’s a test that takes everything that affects cardiac risk into consideration.
The higher your cholesterol level, the higher your cardiac risk, which means a higher chance of having a heart attack or stroke.
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found in all blood vessels across the body. While your body needs a certain level of cholesterol to work normally too much can cause heart disease and other dangerous health problems.
There are two types of cholesterol, good and bad types. The good cholesterol is called high-density lipoproteins (HDL). These proteins take cholesterol back to the liver so that it can leave the body as waste. Bad cholesterol is low-density lipoproteins (LDL). The LDLs cause fatty deposits in arteries that slow down the blood supply from your brain to your heart.
According to Volkmer, students should only be worried about their cholesterol levels if there is a family history of high cholesterol, if they have high blood pressure or are obese.
“I think students have probably heard the word cholesterol before but that they don’t necessarily know what it is or why it is so they probably consider it more of an older problem and something they don’t have to think about,” Volkmer said.
“I know what it is but I’ve never thought about my cholesterol level. I’ve always assumed mine is fine because I’m young,” said sophomore Hannah Stonewall.
If you are worried about your cholesterol levels there are some simple ways, diet and exercise, to prevent high cholesterol and to fix it.
Foods such as deep-fried and fatty foods (in excess) are going to raise your cholesterol level. You should focus on eating high-fiber foods such as oatmeal and wheat bread, because they help your body break down cholesterol. Exercise will also help your body breakdown cholesterol better.
“It all goes together because usually people whose cholesterol levels are higher are those who need to lose weight. Obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol all go hand in hand,” Volkmer said.
Students can schedule and appointment to have their cholesterol levels checked for any reason at Student Health Center by calling 515-271-3731.