Know Your Cholesterol Level
Getting back into the swing of school might have us reaching for overly fatty or processed foods. While most of us are aware that our favorite snacks should be an occasional indulgent treat, it is hard to know exactly how they affect us. Luckily, September is National Cholesterol Education Month, and it is the perfect time to get your cholesterol tested. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults check their cholesterol every five years, as more than 102 million adults in the U.S. have high cholesterol.
High levels of cholesterol cause our arteries to shrink or become blocked, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. High cholesterol typically shows no symptoms, so without a test, it can be difficult to know if our cholesterol is too high. Obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and a family history of high cholesterol can all contribute to our risk of high cholesterol. High cholesterol can happen at any age, and so can prevention and efforts to decrease cholesterol. The National Cholesterol Education Program has laid out some guidelines for prevention and ways to decrease high cholesterol levels. Depending on our cholesterol level, we may be prescribed medications for treatment, but certain lifestyle habits can help too:
- Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These high fiber, low-fat foods help keep our arteries healthy, which is crucial for proper blood flow to our bodies.
- Get some exercise. Just 3-4 hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week will alleviate our risk.
- Maintain a healthy weight for your body size. We can use this BMI calculator as a starting point but need to consider our fat to muscle ratio as well.
- Don’t begin smoking or if you smoke then make efforts to quit. Smoking increases the speed at which our arteries will become blocked by cholesterol.
Georgia State University has many options to help students lower cholesterol and stay healthy. The first step is to get cholesterol levels checked. Be sure to schedule an appointment with the Student Health Clinic or your primary care doctor. Provider appointments are free for all enrolled students. If you would like some help finding cholesterol smart foods or changing your diet then Nutrition Services are available to help! The university clinic has a registered dietician who can meet with you free to assess your nutrition and help you plan to use nutritional choices to maximize your health and wellbeing. To increase your activity, stop by the Student Recreation Center for some fun fitness classes or exercise your own way. Student Health Promotion also offers free tobacco cessation classes to support your journey to a healthier future.