When you hear the word cholesterol, you probably think about the good kind (HDL) and the bad kind (LDL). Medical Assistant and Medical Administrative Assistant Program Chair, Jackie Lee, and medical assistant student Stacy Beardmore worked with UPS in La Crosse as part of the company’s wellness program.
“The La Crosse UPS contacted me wanting to recruit a guest speaker from a local college to talk about health and wellness topics,” Jackie said. “UPS has an employee wellness initiative which is aimed at educating their employees on how to be healthy.”
Jackie’s most recent lecture focused on the different types of cholesterol (HDL, LHL and triglycerides) and their causes. She described cholesterol through a metaphor, saying, “Think of your arteries like a water pipe. Over time, gunk builds up on the walls of the pipe,” she said.
Jackie continued, “Eventually, you end up with a clogged pipe and you have to use a clog remover to clear the drain. The only difference is, it isn’t quite so easy to clear the clogs from our arteries.”
Since high cholesterol can lead to heart attacks, heart disease and strokes, it is important to be regularly tested. Stacy Beardmore stepped in to perform the cholesterol tests on several UPS employees.
Lifestyle changes like limiting alcohol consumption, quitting smoking and changing diet are the best ways to fight high cholesterol. In terms of diet, Jackie recommends swapping trans fats—which can be found in processed foods—with healthy fats such as olive oil, almonds and peanuts.
While most people don’t consider cholesterol testing until later in adulthood, Jackie noted that children are also at risk for high cholesterol. “Evidence shows that the atherosclerotic process [clogging of the arteries] begins in childhood and progresses into adulthood. Current guidelines recommend that children be screened for high blood lipids at least once between ages nine and 11 years old, and again between ages 17 and 21.”
Jackie stressed the importance of being aware of your cholesterol numbers and what you can do to lower them. “There are so many things that we can do to help combat high cholesterol. You can eat lots of vegetables and fruits, select whole grains, eat more heart-healthy fish such as tuna and halibut and salmon, and limit your alcohol intake.”
She also noted that smokers are at a greater risk for high cholesterol. “If you smoke, quit,” she said. “Quitting smoking can help increase your HDL levels.”
Understanding and monitoring cholesterol levels is just one of many tips we’ve learned from our medical assistant instructors and students. We look forward to learning many more this quarter!