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Volunteering may help lower cholesterol levels

Category: Heart Health and Cholesterol

Lowering cholesterol can be difficult, since it involves changing eating habits, taking medication and getting more exercise, not to mention the significant role genetics play in high cholesterol risk. However, recent research suggests that something that is good for the soul and the community may also benefit cholesterol levels. According to scientists from the University of British Columbia, people who volunteer not only feel good about themselves, they may also see more positive results the next time they go in for cholesterol tests.

The researchers set out to determine how volunteering not only affects the self esteem of adolescents, but their physical health as well.

Good for the mind and body
The scientists examined more than 100 students in their sophomore year of high school and divided them into two groups. The first group volunteered regularly for 10 weeks while others were wait-listed for volunteer activities. Both before and after the studies students had body mass index and cholesterol levels measured, as well as their self-esteem and mental health assessed.

They discovered that after 10 weeks, the students who volunteered had lower cholesterol and BMI levels than those who did not.

"It was encouraging to see how a social intervention to support members of the community also improved the health of adolescents," Hannah Schreier, who conducted this research during her doctoral studies at UBC, said in a statement.

Considering volunteering?
This study shows that there are many benefits to volunteering that extend beyond mental well-being, and people may want to keep this in mind. Those who are interested in volunteering should first think about the issue they want to support. In this study, the students worked at an after-school program for elementary school children, but there are thousands of volunteer options out there.

WebMD recommends that when choosing a volunteer organization, people take into account the emotional toll it may take on them. For example, volunteering at a shelter for abused women or a suicide hotline may be more emotionally draining than visiting with an elderly individual in a home. This is something that people need to be honest with themselves about when they set out to volunteer.

Luckily, there is such a wide range of volunteer organizations out there that people are sure to find one that's right for them. These findings should encourage individuals to go out and find a volunteer group that suits the things that they care about for the good of their communities, as well as their mental and physical health.

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