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Cholesterol monitoring important for healthy life

April 22, 1997

By Melissa Harlow

Lariat Reporter

Counting calories and fat grams prevents unwanted pounds, but monitoring cholesterol intake is the key to saving one's life.

'The body manufactures 1,000 milligrams of cholesterol daily, so you don't necessarily have to eat it in order to get it; but too much can be life-threatening,' Katherine Velasquez, Health and Wellness student outreach coordinator, said in last Wednesday's Brown Bag Lunch.

Cholesterol is a lipoprotein--which is a fatty substance in the blood--and is coated with protein.

'There are several types of cholesterol,' Velasquez said. 'But the two most important are LDL [low-density-lipoprotein] and HDL [high-density-lipoprotein].'

LDL has a thin protein layer and tends to deposit itself on the inside walls of the blood vessels, while HDL has a thick protein layer and removes cholesterol from the bloodstream, Velasquez said.

Excess cholesterol and other fats can build up on the inner walls of blood vessels and cause a condition known as atherosclerosis. These fatty build-ups can restrict, and in some cases, totally block the flow of oxygen-rich blood through the blood vessels, Velasquez said.

When atherosclerosis occurs in the blood vessels that nourish the heart, chest pain and heart attacks can result.

There are a number of ways to reduce cholesterol levels, including a change in diet. Reducing saturated fat intake from common foods such as dairy products, the yolk of eggs and red meat, is perhaps one of the best things a person with high cholesterol can do for his or her health.

'The more solid, the more saturated it is,' Velasquez said.

Increasing exercise levels also helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels, Velasquez said.

'You don't have to be an athlete,' Velasquez said. 'Even a 15-minute walk each day is enough to create a difference, but you have to be consistent.'

Michelle Bayes, a San Antonio senior, said she had never really given cholesterol testing much thought, but after hearing the speaker and reading the handouts she changed her thinking.

'I think I will get tested,' Bayes said.

The only way to determine whether you have too much cholesterol in your bloodstream is to have a laboratory blood test performed.

'Testing is a very easy process. Blood samples are taken and results are in as early as the next day,' said Carolyn Hathhorn, lab manager for Smith-Kline Beecham Lab in Waco.

Depending on age, total cholesterol over 200 mg/dl is considered to be undesirably high. Normal levels range from 140 to 180 for most 20 to 29 year olds, Hathhorn said.

The University Health and Wellness office offers cholesterol testing for $18. LDL and HDL levels can be tested for $8, and thyroid testing is given for $11.

'I think cholesterol is something many students do not take into consideration, and most likely these health risks and testing seldom cross our mind,' Emily Dominy, a Fort Worth sophomore, said.

Hathhorn advised maintaining a healthy cholesterol level, reducing daily consumption of fats, exercising moderately three times a week, and to having cholesterol levels checked regularly.

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