Health Center aims to kickstart lifestyle changes
The UH Health Center will host a free cholesterol screening for students, staff and faculty Friday to educate participants about the two types of cholesterol and to show how one of these could contribute to cardiovascular disease.
The event will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the UH Health Center. Any student or staff member with a valid ID is invited to attend. February is the American Heart Association’s American Heart Month, and according to Dr. Scott Spear, executive director and chief physician at the Health Center, the University will offer the free cholesterol screenings so participants can make changes in their lifestyles before it’s too late.
“Epidemiologic studies have shown that elevated cholesterol — elevated bad cholesterol — elevated triglycerides can increase the risk of heart disease or cardiovascular disease and other large vessel disease,” Spear said. “High bad cholesterol is just one of the causes of the vascular disease of the heart.”
According to Spear, two types of cholesterol exist: high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein. The latter is the “bad” type of cholesterol and can clog arteries. A cholesterol screening can measure levels of good and bad types. Spear said it’s important for students to know their cholesterol levels are based on family history, diet and exercise.
“We want to help people who might be at risk to understand what their risks are, so they can make interventions,” Spear said. “There are both dietary interventions that could be made as well as medication interventions.”
Spear said he encourages dietary interventions before medication interventions, but the campus does offer medications to those individuals who are unable to lower their cholesterol with diet and exercise.
As for dietary interventions, changing one’s diet can drastically lower bad cholesterol, Spear said. Portion control and choosing fresh fruits and vegetables instead of hamburgers and pizza is a good start, he said.
Spear said he’s not concerned about the food in the dining halls because there is a variety of options to choose from.
“The problem is the vending machines and fast food joints. It’s high caloric density and low nutritional value,” Spear said. “So it’s a lot of fat and not a lot of protein, vitamins and nutrients. The best places to eat on campus are the campus food service units, but you have to pick and choose.”
Students can also introduce exercise into their health regimens in order to lower bad cholesterol, Spear said.
“The evidence shows us that it’s four to five days a week of 30 minutes to an hour of aerobic exercise that’s going to be helpful to lose weight and improve cardiac health,” Spear said. “Generally, about 85 percent of maximum heart rate is where you want to be. If you’re walking so fast that you can’t carry on a conversation, that’s a good indication that you’re at a good heart rate.”
Students around campus are finding ways to watch what they eat and stay fit.
Graphic communications junior Christelyn Nash said she thinks the free cholesterol screenings at the Health Center are a good idea, especially for students like her who try to watch what they eat and are concerned about their health.
“I eat pretty healthy, but I never really checked myself,” Nash said. “I just keep a basic diet. I try to stay away from fast food and man-made foods in general. I dance a lot. I don’t go to the gym or anything, but I stay fit by dancing.”
Chemical engineering senior Jason Pham said that between classes, studying and going to work, he doesn’t find a lot of time to work out, but he said he balances maintaining a healthy lifestyle with the foods he eats.
“I try to eat right, and I don’t eat a lot of fast food. I eat a lot of vegetables,” Pham said. “I don’t think I have high cholesterol. My family doesn’t.”
Spear said the UH Health Center expects about 100 individuals to participate in Friday’s cholesterol screening, and he hopes that more people take advantage of the free incentive.