September 24, 2019

September is National Cholesterol Education Month

September is National Cholesterol Education Month, which promotes the importance of having blood cholesterol checked. Cholesterol levels are normally checked during an annual physical and biometrics screening, which means employees have an opportunity to complete their 2019 Healthy Boiler objective (by Sept. 30) or get their 2020 (beginning Oct. 1) objective taken care of early while also learning about their cholesterol (lipid) levels. (Upload biometric data via the Healthy Boiler portal.)

High cholesterol puts individuals at increased risk of heart disease, stroke and peripheral artery disease. As part of the Healthy Boiler Program, physical wellness is among the five pillars of focus. The physical health pillar champions health education, preventive care and ongoing treatment programs to help individuals achieve lasting physical health and overall well-being.

What can employees do to protect themselves and learn more? Let’s start with the basics.

What is cholesterol?

According to Kimberly Porter, family nurse practitioner at the Center for Healthy Living on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus, cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all cells of the body.

“Our bodies need cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D and substances that help us digest foods,” Porter says. “Cholesterol comes from foods such as meat, fish, eggs, butter, cheese and milk. Our liver also produces cholesterol; therefore, eating foods high in cholesterol may increase cholesterol, sometimes to dangerous levels.” 

Cholesterol is often reported in two forms:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is the bad, unhealthy kind of cholesterol and can build up in arteries.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is the good, healthy kind of cholesterol. This form transports excess cholesterol out of arteries to the liver, where it’s removed from the body.

As mentioned above, some cholesterol is needed to make hormones, vitamin D and help with digestion and proper organ function. However, too much LDL can be a problem.

What are the risks of high cholesterol?

High cholesterol puts individuals at a higher risk of developing heart disease, stroke and peripheral artery disease, which happens when cholesterol builds up in arteries, clogging them.

“When arteries harden, known as atherosclerosis, blood flow is restricted; therefore the heart has to work much harder to push blood through them,” Porter says. “Over time plaque can build up in the arteries, which can lead to heart disease, heart attack or stroke. When blood flow is blocked to your heart or a clot is formed from plaque breaking off, this can cause a heart attack. If this same situation occurs in the arteries going to the brain or within the brain, a stroke can occur. Peripheral arterial disease also is caused by blocked blood flow from plaque buildup, but in this case, the blockage is in the arteries that supply blood to your intestines, legs and feet.”

What can be done to help lower cholesterol?

Lowering cholesterol through diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and medication are all ways to decrease the chances of complications.

Whitney Soto, registered nurse health coach at the Center for Healthy Living, offers a few tips on ways to reduce cholesterol levels with simple lifestyle changes:

  • Eat foods that are healthy for your heart. Try to include whole grains, fish, nuts, avocados and other nutrient-dense foods. Eating a variety will ensure that the body receives an adequate amount of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids to help achieve a favorable cholesterol level.
  • Increase exercise/physical activity. Doing moderate physical activity at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week can make an impact. Work your way up to this amount if you aren’t quite ready – it doesn’t have to be an "all or nothing" approach.
  • Quit smoking. Benefits, such as improved blood circulation, blood pressure and heart rate, occur quickly.
  • Lose weight. It is believed that even losing 5 percent of your body weight can help reduce cholesterol.

Health coaches (like Soto), pharmacists and the dietitian at CHL can all play a part in helping individuals lower their cholesterol levels. They are available to meet in person or via telephone, which provides all benefits-eligible Purdue employees on the West Lafayette, Purdue Fort Wayne and Purdue Northwest campuses access to their help and knowledge. 

Again, it’s recommended that individuals have cholesterol levels checked at regular doctor visits, such as during an annual physical. A simple blood test will show cholesterol levels and can be the starting point to which an employee and his or her primary care provider can begin to make changes to help if cholesterol levels are out of range. Tiered lab benefits save employees money on all three Purdue medical plans, and the lab at CHL is a tier 1 lab, which provides the most cost-effective lab work. For more information, including a list of tier 1 lab locations, visit the Tiered Lab Benefit webpage.


Questions should be directed to Human Resources – Benefits at each respective campus.

  • West Lafayette campus: Email hr@purdue.eduor via secure email at HR Help or call 765-494-2222 or toll-free at 877-725-0222.
  • Fort Wayne campus: Email hr@pfw.eduor call 260-481-6840.
  • PNW Westville and Hammond campuses: Email hr@pnw.eduor call 219-989-2251.

To schedule an appointment (in-person or via telephone) with the Center for Healthy Living staff, call 765-494-0111 or schedule via the CHL portal.

Healthy Boiler

The Healthy Boiler Program is a multifaceted approach to overall well-being composed of five pillars: behavioral health, financial wellness, physical health, social wellness and work-life integration.

To stay up-to-date on all things Healthy Boiler, visit the Healthy Boiler Portal and follow the Healthy Boiler Purdue blog and Healthy Boiler on social media via the links below.

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