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Sep 2023

Hyperlipidemia: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and treatment

Posted By Suborna Fermi Posted on Sep 30, 2023

The medical term for high cholesterol is hyperlipidemia which is a very common condition in this modern world. High lipids levels in your body can restrict blood flow through the arteries which elevate your risk of getting heart attack and stroke. To prevent these emergency events early diagnosis and treatment is important.

What is Hyperlipidemia?

Hyperlipidemia is also known as high cholesterol or dyslipidemia which indicates high lipid or fat levels in your body. Our liver produces cholesterol to digest foods and generates certain hormones. We also consume cholesterol from the food we eat such as meat. As our body generates enough cholesterol on its own, the cholesterol we get from foods is excess.

Excess fats or lipids in the body can cause many health complications, as it blocks the arteries from where blood flows throughout the body. The blockage in the arteries can damage organs if they do not get enough blood from the arteries.

Understanding cholesterol levels

As cholesterol is a fatty substance it cannot travel through the blood flow, this is why our liver makes lipoproteins which are made of fat and proteins. Lipoproteins carry cholesterol and other types of lipids through the bloodstream.

There are two types of lipoproteins, such as high density lipoproteins or good cholesterol (HDL) and low density lipoproteins or bad cholesterol (LDL). A high level of low density lipoproteins can be very harmful, as it causes cholesterol buildup in the blood vessels which makes it difficult for the blood to get through. This can put you at risk of getting a heart attack and stroke.

How harmful is having high cholesterol levels?

High cholesterol levels or hyperlipidemia can be very dangerous if not treated early. If you are not getting treatment for it, cholesterol builds up in the arteries which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

What are the causes of hyperlipidemia?

1. Lifestyle factors: Many lifestyle habits can lower your good cholesterol levels and increase bad cholesterol levels. As per numerous studies, lifestyle choices that can raise the cholesterol levels include:

  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption

2. Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions also affects the cholesterol levels, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Polycystic ovary disease
  • Hypothyroidism

3. Medications: Medicines are used to treat various diseases but some medications can also cause high cholesterol levels, such as.

  • Birth control pills
  • Corticosteroids
  • Diuretics
  • Antiretrovirals
  • Beta blockers

What are the risk factors?

Multiple factors can put you at risk of developing hyperlipidemia, including:

  • Having a family history of high cholesterol levels
  • Having an underactive thyroid
  • Not having a balanced and diet diet
  • Having diabetes
  • Smoking and drinking alcohol

What are the signs and symptoms of hyperlipidemia?

Generally, hyperlipidemia does not cause any symptoms at the beginning stage till it gets to the advanced stage and requires medical emergency. High cholesterol levels can cause heart attack and stroke if it is not managed or treated right away. This is why a cholesterol test is required to determine whether your cholesterol levels are too high or not.

As per the CDC, everyone above the age of 20 is required to get their cholesterol levels checked. People who are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease need to check their cholesterol levels more often than others. Doctors might also recommend a cholesterol blood test to children if they have a family history of high cholesterol, have diabetes or are overweight.

How is hyperlipidemia diagnosed?

As hyperlipidemia does not cause any symptoms, getting a lipid panel test or lipid profile test is the only way to determine whether you have hyperlipidemia or not. This panel test will help to evaluate the lipid levels in your blood.

A laboratory professional will collect a small sample of blood through a vein in your arm, and will send it to the laboratory for testing. They will check the levels of certain lipids, such as:

  • Total cholesterol
  • High density lipoprotein (HDL)
  • Low density lipoprotein (LDL)
  • Triglycerides

Fasting is required to appear in this test, which means you cannot eat or drink anything except water for 8 to 12 hours before the blood collection procedure. However, some recent studies have mentioned that fasting is not always necessary for this test. Therefore, make sure to ask your doctor for proper guidance.

All the reference ranges of the measured levels will be mentioned on the test reports, however, make sure to consult with your doctor for the result interpretations as the reference ranges vary from laboratory to laboratory.

How is hyperlipidemia treated?

For the treatment of hyperlipidemia, you need to do lifestyle changes. If changing your lifestyle does not help in improving the condition, then your doctor might prescribe you certain medications to manage high cholesterol levels. Here are a few essential ways to reduce your high cholesterol levels, such as:

  • Eat a healthy diet: Having a healthy diet is the main key to reduce high cholesterol levels. Try to cut the deep fried and processed foods from your diet. Eat more healthy fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Maintaining your healthy weight is an absolute way to manage your cholesterol levels. If you are not in your healthy weight range, try to lose weight as this can help in reducing total cholesterol levels. Losing weight in a healthy way is very important, So if you are struggling with losing weight then you can opt for consulting a dietician.
  • Get active: Along with a healthy diet, doing exercise is also very important in order to lose weight and stay healthy. You are not required to do high intensity workouts, however, doing cardio workouts is extremely helpful for lowering LDL levels.
  • Medications: Doctors also recommend certain medications as lifestyle changes may not work for all individuals. Statins are the typical drug that most doctors prescribe to decrease LDL levels. However, if you cannot tolerate statins then your doctor may recommend other cholesterol or triglycerides medications.

How to prevent high cholesterol levels?

You can prevent hyperlipidemia through improving your lifestyle habits. Here are a few ways in which you can prevent hyperlipidemia:

  • Have a diet low in saturated fats and high in healthy fats.
  • Do moderate intensity exercise several days of week.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Manage your stress levels.
  • Get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
  • Quit smoking and limit the consumption of alcohol.

If you have hyperlipidemia, then you are required to manage your cholesterol levels throughout your life. High cholesterol levels can block the arteries which can cause organs damage, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. To prevent such unwanted health circumstances make sure to get your cholesterol levels checked periodically.