Being a teenager is not easy. Teenagers deal with peer pressure, an increasing need for more independence, changes in the body, relationship issues (with parents, teachers and friends), among others. Teenagers are more worried about what to wear in the school dance than they would be about lipids! However, teenagers with Chronic Kidney Diseases have a higher risk of developing lipid and heart problems and should be aware of them to remain healthy and continue with activities they enjoy. It is important for teenagers to know about lipids!
So what are lipids? They are simply the fats in the bloodstream of your body. The common type is called cholesterol which the body makes and comes from foods like meats, poultry (eggs and chicken), and dairy (milk, cheeses, ice cream). Fruits, vegetables and grains are cholesterol free. Teenagers should keep in mind that there are good and bad cholesterols.
There are three major types of lipids: Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) and the triglycerides. LDL is considered the bad cholesterol and is most likely to clog blood vessels and prevent the smooth blood flow in the system. HDL, on the other hand, is the good type of cholesterol which transports cholesterol away from the heart and blood and then back to the liver. From there, the cholesterol breaks down and sent to different parts of the body. Meanwhile, triglycerides are the stored fat in the body. High triglycerides do not clog blood vessels but may lead to diabetes or high blood sugar and can cause pancreas disorder.
LDL builds up in the blood results to the formation of plaque (fatty deposits) in the walls of the arteries. Plaque makes the arteries thicker, harder and narrower which decreases blood flow. Hardening of arteries in the heart leads to a heart attack or stroke.
People should always maintain a healthy level of cholesterol to prevent hardening of the arteries, high blood sugar or disorder of the pancreas. For teenagers the healthy levels of lipids are the following: total cholesterol is less than 200, LDL is less than 130, HDL is above 40, triglycerides are less than 150. Doctors measure blood lipids through tests. Haemodialysis patients are advised to have the lipid tests before dialysis while peritoneal dialysis patients are advised to
have the test in the morning. Another way to checks for healthy lipids is through the non-HDL test where the doctor subtracts the HDL from the total cholesterol. Lipids should be checked yearly or about 2 -3 months after a change in treatment.
Unhealthy lipids are caused by obesity, history of cholesterol problems or heart disease, diet high in saturated fats and cholesterol, not having enough exercise and excessive alcohol. To improve unhealthy levels just do the opposite of everything that’s causing it! Lose excess weight, follow a low-fat and low cholesterol diet, exercise regularly and minimize alcohol intake.
Teenagers will find it helpful to discuss what they have learned about lipids with their parents, and keep the communication line open especially with CKD issues. It is never easy living with a disease, and it complicates matters when hormones are changing. But awareness is key to remain healthy and continue with activities you enjoy as a teenager.*