I took the picture above in March of 2013. The person you see is my eldest son shortly after his 13th birthday. He is a very fit (now) 14 year old who runs, lifts with me, is a 2nd Degree Black Belt (think grappling, sparring, kata, kickboxing, etc) and is getting ready to undertake wrestling this upcoming year as he enters high school. He is not a kid you would think would have a ‘fitness’ problem.
That is until he got his cholesterol checked a few days ago.
It was a part of the standard well check this past week. We have a history of heart issues and diabetes in the family so we pay close attention to these types of things, happily signing off on just about any blood test our Doctor (who is fabulous) wants to run. So cholesterol checking we did go. Now it was not off the chart, doesn’t require medication and was just on the borderline but it got me thinking.
If this teenager, who has a solid diet (no really, he does for a teenager), a body fat % that is probably in the single digits, works out more than most team sport athletes his age do and has no early onset heart disease in his family can have high cholesterol counts, how bad are the rest of us sitting? And as a RoadWarrior, how do we fight it?
The tips below should not be new news to anyone but are worth reiterating as we can all slip from time to time:
- Know your number – because knowing is half the battle!! (only GI Joe fans will get that one)
The total Cholesterol is not the only important number, you need to know the LDL (bad) vs. HDL (good) cholesterol counts. Even if your total cholesterol is great but it is all in the LDL category, you still have an issue. It is a simple test that most clinics/drugstores/blood banks can do for you. I have the privilege of being a universal blood donor and every time I give, they check my cholesterol for me.
- Exercise – I know. Shocking I would suggest this.
Studies show that regular exercise, of any type, can directly assist in raising the ratio of HDL to LDL. Don’t skip just because your schedule is busy and it has been a long day. Remember the first rule of being RoadWarriorFit? Do something, ANYTHING, everyday.
- Avoid overly processed foods
There are so many reasons to follow this advice and the best summary I have ever seen is the film Forks over Knives. Fair warning, watching this film could change your life (for the better).
- Focus your protein consumption around lean cuts of meats
You can still have your steak (my son’s favorite) but not every night. Opt for long swimming fish (tuna, swordfish, shark, salmon, etc.) that is not farm raised one night a week. How does chicken (not fried) sound for Wednesday? Mix it up. After all, variety is the spice of life!!
- Eat the green stuff
Fruits and veggies that are high in fiber can act like scouring pads for your arteries. Even if you never eat another piece of meat in your life, your liver is still producing enough cholesterol for your body to do phenomenally well. Think about that, you are already producing all of the cholesterol your body needs (yes, we actually do need it). As RoadWarriorFit rule #2 states, see fruit – eat fruit.
So while I while I work with my son to choose the chicken over the steak burrito while at his beloved Chipotle, I hope that we can work together to make the right choices on the road (eating your veggies instead of the fries, hitting the gym instead of the lobby bar, etc). I also hope we all are able to have a back like this kid does at some point in our lives.
Wish me luck. We spar/grapple with each other on a regular basis and he is only getting bigger and faster.