Hyperlipidemia

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Hyperlipidemia

What is hyperlipidemia?

Hyperlipidemia is a medical term that indicates an elevated level of fats (or lipids) in the blood. The most commonly treated type of hyperlipidemia is high cholesterol. Having high levels of lipids in the blood can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Excess amounts of lipids can build up on the walls of the arteries and form plaques. The plaques can slow or obstruct the flow of blood (called atherosclerosis) to vital organs. Hyperlipidemia can be managed with lifestyle changes but often requires medication as well.

What type of foods contribute to hyperlipidemia?

A diet high in saturated fats, sugar and refined carbohydrates can lead to high cholesterol over time. However, not all foods with high cholesterol are bad for you. For example, eggs and fish are high-fat foods that are considered highly nutritious, and don’t have a negative impact on your cholesterol levels or general health. On the other hand, processed foods, desserts and fast foods can raise cholesterol levels in the blood, increasing your chances of developing hyperlipidemia.

Is cholesterol bad for you?

This is a common misconception about cholesterol. Contrary to this belief, cholesterol is necessary to provide flexibility to cell membranes, and is  essential in the synthesis of certain hormones and vitamin D. However, if you have too much of LDL cholesterol – due to poor diet or lack of exercise – it can have a negative effect on your overall health, especially your heart. Your body naturally produces cholesterol, and there are two types of cholesterol.  Low-density lipoprotein, (LDL) is considered the “bad” cholesterol. On the other hand, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the “good” cholesterol. Making unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as eating processed foods, drinking too much alcohol, and smoking, can contribute to an elevated level of LDL.

LDL versus HDL

LDL is considered “unhealthy” because it causes fatty buildup in the arteries and contributes to heart disease. HDL contributes to your health by taking cholesterol away from the arteries to the liver, where it can be broken down even further and removed from the body. Therefore, it is ideal to have a high level of HDL (“good” cholesterol) and a low level of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.

Causes

What causes hyperlipidemia?

The cause of hyperlipidemia depends on the type of hyperlipidemia you have. Hyperlipidemia can be either primary or secondary hyperlipidemia. Primary hyperlipidemia is genetic and can be inherited at birth. Secondary hyperlipidemia, or acquired hyperlipidemia, develop as a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices: unhealthy diet, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking tobacco, and lack of regular exercise. Some medications, such as beta blockers, birth control pills, and growth hormone can cause lipid levels to increase.

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Symptoms

What are the symptoms of hyperlipidemia?

Hyperlipidemia rarely causes symptoms. Unless you are tested for hyperlipidemia, you may not know you have this condition until you develop cerebrovascular disease (limits blood supply to the brain), coronary artery disease (limits blood and nutrients to the heart), or symptoms of a stroke or heart attack.  If you have risk factors for hyperlipidemia, yearly screening is essential.  Even if you’re not at high risk, most adults should be screened for hyperlipidemia at least every five years.

Diagnosis

How is hyperlipidemia diagnosed?

Your doctor will order a specific blood test called a lipid panel in order to check your cholesterol levels. This test will then show your doctor your total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels (another type of lipid). The ratio of HDL to LDL is important in determining if you may need treatment for hyperlipidemia or high cholesterol.  Generally, if your total cholesterol level is over 200mg/dl, your doctor may  recommend you work to lower it with medications and lifestyle modifications.

Treatment

How is hyperlipidemia treated?

Prescription medications that lower lipids are in widespread use by many adults. The most well-known lipid-lowering medications are statins.  Statins may be prescribed to treat moderate or severe hyperlipidemia.  For patients with certain risk factors, such as a family history of heart attacks or strokes, statins may be prescribed if lipid levels are mildly elevated or even if levels are normal.

Mild hyperlipidemia can be treated with lifestyle changes alone, if your doctor believes this is appropriate for you. Lifestyle modifications that can make a difference in your total cholesterol include:

  • Regular exercise
  • Healthy eating that includes more fish and vegetables, and less sugar, red meat, processed foods, and fast foods.
  • Weight reduction; healthy weight maintenance
  • Smoking cessation

References

Osborn, C. O. (2020, February 27). What You Should Know About Hyperlipidemia. Healthline.https://www.healthline.com/health/hyperlipidemia#prevention
Hill MF, Bordoni B. Hyperlipidemia. [Updated 2021 Feb 7]. StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island, FL. StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559182/

Information

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Affordable –
with or without insurance

With Insurance

Diabetes and Endocrinology

Your copay
Depending on insurance

Without Insurance

Diabetes and Endocrinology

$149

Initial Visit

$75

Follow Up