Right before my 22nd birthday, I went to the doctors to get a physical and my blood drawn. Throughout the pandemic, health and healthcare have been a concern for many of us. The global emphasis on health made me want to take more responsibility for my own health and know more about my body. I was checking my blood work from a few years before to see if there were any red flags, to my surprise, I noticed that my cholesterol was high.

I was mainly taken by this because my physician at the time did not mention it or talk about the results of my blood work with me. I don’t know if my physician just thought it was nothing to worry about, if she thought it was probably fine since I’m young, or if she thought that I could have eaten something the day that would have affected my results. Either way, she didn’t discuss this with me during that time.

While this lack of communication and discussion is troublesome, it did teach me a valuable lesson. It taught me that I need to be more attentive when it comes to my test results.

Most importantly, as a young black woman, I need to be my own biggest advocate when it comes to my health and medical care.

It has been proven and researched in several studies on public health that black women face discrimination from health professionals and disparities when it comes to receiving appropriate medical care. Health conditions disproportionately impact black women.  Additionally, mortality rates in maternal mortality and injury are higher for black women.

So, when I went to my doctor’s appointment, I was specific about what I wanted to be done and what I was concerned about regarding my own health. I came ready to ask questions. I wanted to know if my cholesterol would be high, like the last time I had my blood work done. I wanted to know if the results were a one-time occurrence or an issue that I should be concerned about now.

After my appointment, I anxiously waited to receive my results. About a week later, they came back, and I still had high cholesterol.  Immediately, I messaged my physician for guidance on what I should do and what the results meant for me. To be completely honest, I was pretty much clueless about what having high cholesterol exactly meant for my life now and my future health.

Cholesterol is a type of lipid that is produced by your liver. It is important for the formation of cell membranes, hormones, and vitamin D. You also need cholesterol so that your body can build tissues, produce sex hormones, and aid in bile production in the liver.

However, too much cholesterol can cause issues. Your cholesterol is transported through your bloodstream through the help of lipoprotein. There are two types of lipoproteins, which carry cholesterol throughout your bloodstream.

The first are low-density lipoproteins (LDL), and they are referred to as “bad cholesterol.”

If your LDL cholesterol is too high, it can build on the wall of your arteries, limit blood flow, and cause blood clots. Blood clots in your arteries in your heart and brain can cause a stroke or a heart attack.

The second lipoprotein is high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL cholesterol is referred to as “good cholesterol,” and it helps manage LDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol returns LDL to the liver and helps prevent cholesterol from building up in your body. This helps decrease your chances of having a stroke.

After receiving feedback from my physician, they pointed out to me that my HDL levels were high and good level, which is enough to offset any risks. They also mentioned that my having high cholesterol is most likely caused by genetics. While this news was reassuring, I can’t say that I am still not anxious at times or thinking about my future health. I think the most challenging part is I wasn’t expecting to have this particular concern and now having to learn what having high cholesterol could mean for me.

My physician suggested that I should work on establishing an exercise routine and a well-balanced diet that is high in fiber. I have been trying to work on these things one by one. I won’t lie; I have been pretty bad about establishing a workout routine throughout quarantine and the pandemic. Sometimes I am pretty good at keeping a schedule, and other times not so much. Hopefully, it will get better, and I’ll eventually find something that I enjoy doing.

But for now, I’ll just continue to try my best!

In terms of food, I won’t say that I have completely cut certain foods out of my diet. I just feel like I am more concerned about what foods I am eating and how often I am a certain type of food that could potentially increase my cholesterol. I even went online to see what foods I could incorporate more into my diet to help lower my cholesterol. I also try to research to figure out what works for me and my body. I try to make good choices for myself.

Foods that I found that work for me are oats, certain fruits, vegetables, almonds, and salmon. I love making smoothie bowls and loading oats that are high in fiber on top of it. I also could probably eat salmon five nights a week and have zero problems with it!

While there is no need for intervention or dramatic changes at the moment, I am not sure what the future may hold. I realized that I have a lot to learn about my personal health and healthcare as a whole. However, my goal is to take one step at a time, listen to what my physician advises me to do, and ask questions so I understand everything regarding my health in the future!

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  • Tatayana Allen is a recent college graduate of the University of Virginia. During her time at the university she was a Media Studies major and was in the Cavalier Marching Band. Tatayana loves anything related to fashion, music, and photography.