It seems this is the time of year when high school students and graduates get physical screening tests for their sports, future military service, or college health screenings. As the American population increases in girth, it is not surprising to see many younger adults / adolescents exhibit typical problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and pre-diabetes in some cases.
Recently a young man (age 16) who plays football and runs track for his High School teams, but also serving in the Civil Air Patrol and does very well on his PT tests emailed us with a concern about the results of his pre-sports physical. He states, “I went for my annual check-up and found out I am close to High Cholesterol.” Receiving the information I thought it was a joke (I weigh 141, BMI under 20, 5 feet 8 inches tall) I am very athletic and in great shape physically. Now my diet is all red meat, ice-cream, vegetables, lots of 2% milk, rice, ground beef. As you can see my diet is pretty bad but I eat a normal amount of junk food compared to my peers. Any tips?”
After chatting with Dr. Jim Greenwald of Specialty Health, he reminded me of a recent discussion we had about cholesterol and the particles that carry cholesterol. See related article about his work with cholesterol / triglycerides and insulin dependency / diabetes. Dr. Greenwald states, “Yes, bad cholesterol is bad, but the way it is transported throughout the body is what makes it dangerous.” Dr Greenwald adds: “The real risk lies in the number of particles (Lipoproteins or LDL-P) that carry the cholesterol (LDL). To determine the risk factor requires advanced and sometimes lifesaving testing. The NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) by Liposcience is the test we prefer. An MRI of the blood itself gives us an accurate count of the particles that carry the cholesterol.”
The tips I have for you, coming from a non-medical professional, would be to not to be too alarmed by the near High Cholesterol test, but to still take it seriously. Try changing a few things in your diet:
- Add more fruit as snacks and raw or steamed vegetables (avoid canned)
- You can still eat your meat and dairy but find leaner meats / skinless chicken and more fish.
- Drink more water through the day versus a gallon of milk.
- Probably the most important: Try to eliminate eating fried foods. Try baking, grilling, boiling, or raw (fruit / vegetables) vs. deep frying anything.
- And of course – keep exercising and getting plenty of resistance and cardiovascular training in your normal week.
Also get regular blood tests over the next several months to confirm whether or not it was just a blip or you actually have a tendency for higher cholesterol. Often these are genetic, so if your parents have higher cholesterol, you could have the potential to increase your numbers. But it could also be controlled with diet, styles of cooking, exercise, and lastly medication. Keep in regular touch with your doctor to see if your lifestyle changes made a difference in your LDL / HDL and triglyceride scores. If not, consider the above test to see where your LDL-P (lipoprotein particles) score. Avoiding the results of future tests could later prove to be detrimental to your health in the form of heart disease, atherosclerosis, heart strain and stroke.