There is a saying about what’s on the inside is a lot more important than what’s on the outside. It can be difficult for some to keep a perfect figure when surrounded by fattening foods, but have no fear: FLASH is here to help.
FLASH is a health-study program created to promote health awareness. Currently, FLASH is working on the Freshmen Heart Health Study, which screens newly admitted freshmen in fall quarter and tests their cholesterol and glucose. During spring quarter, the students get retested, and the two results are compared.
For the test, students draw two drops of blood from their finger — which reveal their cholesterol and glucose levels and whether or not they are at high risk of having diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
When it comes to your body, FLASH program director Ann McDermott said she doesn’t believe it should be a mystery.
“We don’t believe in ‘ignorance is bliss,’” McDermott said. “We want to test how healthy you are on the inside.”
Tests include the measurement of weight, height, waist, blood pressure and body fat percentage. The equipment used includes standardized measurements, including a stadiometer (a portable height measurement), a digital scale, a gulick tape measure for waist and wrist, an automatic blood pressure cuff and a Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis unit that has electricity passing through the body to calculate body fat percentage.
Assistant leader and kinesiology senior Robert Buitrago said all these determinants expose the students to their exact health ranking and where they generally stand.
“It gives students a chance to see their health status and a chance for us to see if we are healthy coming into college and not going in the wrong direction,” Buitrago said.
But people in the program worry about some of the information collected concerning students’ health habits.
“Only 6 percent out of 911 students have five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day (and) less than 50 percent had normal blood pressure,” McDermott said. “And blood pressure is the silent killer.”
Therefore, when it comes to taking these tests, it is important to know what is happening inside the body, and understand how to improve it with up-to-date results, she said.
“Perception isn’t reality,” McDermott said. “We relied on high school data (that shows) 37 percent of high school students are obese, and 60 percent of adults are obese. What’s happened in this four year span? If we’re a science institute, why are we running on falsehood?”
An infamous “falsehood” is the “freshman 15,” in which new college students are expected to gain at least 15 pounds upon entering college.
“Freshman 15: (where is) data for that?” McDermott said. “It’s a fallacy used all the time.”
Tests like the Freshman Heart Health Study are important for abolishing these beliefs and showing the actual outcome of students living in a college environment. There are three points why these physical assessments are important: for the individual, the university and the medical field, McDermott said. By concentrating on these three points, people can learn and realize what the problem is.
“If people don’t know what’s getting them in trouble, they don’t know how to change,” McDermott said.
To improve healthy lifestyle tendencies, FLASH project manager Jane Hurley said being active is important to stay fit and healthy.
“It’s not just about being cardiovascular active, like going for walks and jogs,” Hurley said. “That’s important too, but there is a lot of new research emerging that it’s as important — or even more — to make sure you have strength training.”
Hurley said she is surprised by the increasing number of obesity when it is well-known that exercise is the main component to living a healthier life.
“It’s astonishing the number of people who are overweight despite over 20 years of people being aware that exercise is beneficial,” Hurley said. “The obesity rate is still increasing. Being active is the biggest way to avoid that and eating a healthy diet. It’s always both together, and I think that’s what people lose sight of.”
To avoid losing prospect of living healthier, those involved with FLASH look forward to more participants understanding their bodies.
“We want to continue to do this every year and get more people involved,” Buitrago said. “We’re the nation’s largest health study, and we want to continue that tradition at Cal Poly.”