College is a time when health can easily slip students’ minds. However, Michael Wesley Milks, cardiologist and assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Wexner Medical Center, conducted a study on ways to lower cholesterol and found that people as young as 18 should start taking this into consideration.

According to his research, high cholesterol is a top risk factor when it comes to Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease, the buildup of cholesterol and fats on the artery walls. And when it comes to heart health and diseases, all people are affected regardless of age, Milks said.

“There are universal screenings for children at age 9 to 11 years, then for young adults age 17 to 21 years. If you’re hitting the college age, it’s time for that general cholesterol screening,” Milks said.

Cholesterol can essentially be categorized into low-density lipoprotein the “bad” cholesterol or high-density lipoprotein, which is considered “good,” Milks said. High-density lipoproteins help benefit the body in other ways, while low-density lipoproteins aren’t essential to bodily function.

“Cholesterol is a precursor to certain hormones and is used in cell membranes and is an essential compound,” Milks said. “The sort of pre-eminent ‘bad’ cholesterol — LDL — we think of as excess cholesterol that just contributes to atherosclerotic disease, humans can do well without the LDL.”

Margie Hevezi, ambulatory care specialty pharmacist at the Wexner, explained how young adults should begin to not only monitor their cholesterol through screenings, but also be fully aware of their family medical history.

“In our early adult lives at the age of 20, every four to six years you should get your cholesterol checked,” Hevezi said. “One of the most important things for college students to know is what is their family’s medical history. High cholesterol can run in the family as well.”

Hevezi said incorporating a diet with the correct amount of nutrition sooner rather than later reduces the risk of having heart problems at an older age.

The key to live a long and quality life, Hevezi said, is to start eating fruit and vegetables at a young age, and measuring intake of food that is high in saturated fats.

“In your younger years, if you focus on avoiding those risk factors that develop diabetes and obesity, your chance of having high cholesterol later leading on to heart events is decreasing,” Hevezi said.

Aside from a healthy diet, Hevezi said dedicating only 30 to 60 minutes a day to physical activity is just as important in an effort to help your heart stay healthy.

Milks said his No. 1 recommendation to those concerned with their health is to have a continuous health care provider.

“Get the cholesterol checked, and the best way to do that is to have a primary care physician,” Milks said. “And in those visits, don’t hesitate to ask for cholesterol screening.”