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FREE Cholesterol Screening Opportunities during September

September 5, 2019

Have you had your blood cholesterol checked lately? Do you know why you should? Many adults don’t know their cholesterol levels. Even fewer parents know their children’s cholesterol level. Yes, children can have high cholesterol levels. Young adults (20-24 years) can have high cholesterol, too. You can’t “feel” high cholesterol in your blood. Having your cholesterol level checked is the only way to know if it is too high. September is National Cholesterol Education Month and is the perfect time to find out your cholesterol level and why you should know. 

High levels of blood cholesterol is one factor that increases your risk of heart disease. Specifically, high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (or LDL-C) can cause plaque buildup in your artery walls. This can lead to “clogged arteries.” Over time, the plaque buildup increases and can decrease blood flow. If the clogged artery is in your heart, you may feel symptoms like chest pain. A clogged artery in your heart can cause a heart attack. A clogged artery that supplies blood to the brain can cause a stroke. 

Knowing your cholesterol levels is a key step in preventing heart disease. The first time cholesterol levels should be checked is in childhood. There are genetic disorders that cause very high cholesterol levels starting in childhood. For example, a genetic disorder called familial hypercholesterolemia (or FH) occurs in 1 in 250 people. FH increases the risk of heart disease early in life – think of a 30-, 40-, or 50-year-old having a heart attack. Cholesterol testing should be done for all children when they are age 9 – 11 years. Screening this early helps to identify FH. Cholesterol screening in children younger than age 9 should be done if there is a strong family history of early heart disease. Family history of early heart disease means a heart attack, stroke, or an “intervention” for heart disease (like a “heart cath”) in parents, brothers or sisters, grandparents, aunts, or uncles (younger than 55 years of age for men, younger than 65 years of age for women). Children should have their cholesterol checked if their parents have a total cholesterol higher than 240 mg/dL. Also, children who have high blood pressure, diabetes, or obesity should have their cholesterol checked.

If cholesterol is not checked in children when they are 9 – 11 years old, they should have it checked between the ages of 17 – 21 years. Again, this will help identify a young person with FH. The earlier FH or high cholesterol is found, the earlier something can be done about it to prevent heart disease. Everyone 20 years or older should have their cholesterol checked if they have not before.

If you’re an adult and your cholesterol levels are normal, have them checked again every 3 – 5 years. If you or your child have high cholesterol levels, talk with your primary care provider about ways to lower cholesterol. A healthy lifestyle is a key way to lower your cholesterol. A healthy lifestyle is also the foundation for preventing heart disease, especially in young people. A healthcare team can help support you in making changes for a healthier lifestyle. A registered dietitian nutritionist can help you learn how to practice heart-healthy eating. An exercise specialist can help you find ways to increase your physical activity. 

You can have your cholesterol checked for free during September if you meet certain criteria. If you are aged 17 and 75 years, have never had your cholesterol checked, and don’t have diabetes or heart disease, you can have a cholesterol test done for free. The ISU Wellness Center is partnering with the College of Pharmacy Operation Heart Program, the ISU Health Center, and Health West – ISU Clinic to offer free point-of-service total cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (or HDL-C) testing four different dates on campus. You do not have to be fasting to have the test. If your total cholesterol is high or HDL-C is low, you will be referred to the ISU Health Center, Health West – ISU Clinic, or your primary care provider for a full lipid panel. Limited funding assistance (up to $25) is available to those who do the free screening and are referred to the ISU Health Center or Health West - ISU Clinic for a lipid panel. A full lipid panel will help decide what to do next for your cholesterol levels. Next steps may include lifestyle changes and medication (if needed) to lower cholesterol levels. Both lifestyle and medication are needed to treat high cholesterol caused by genetic disorders like FH. I encourage you to take advantage of National Cholesterol Education Month to know your cholesterol numbers. Knowing your numbers empowers you to take action to decrease your risk of heart disease. 

Free Point-of-Service Cholesterol Testing Dates and Locations 
Date                 Time                Event and Location
Sept. 6     10 AM – 1 PM    Idaho State University Connections Fair - Quad
Sept. 10    10 AM – 1 PM    Idaho State University Bengal Pharmacy – 2nd floor ISU Health Center
Sept. 18    10 AM – 1 PM    Healthy Bengal Wellness Fair – Rendezvous Atrium
Sept. 27    10 AM – 1 PM    Idaho State University Family Weekend – Turner Dining Commons