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Hyperlipidemia

Definition:
Hyperlipidemia is an abnormally high level of fatty substances called lipids in the blood. Lipids include cholesterol and triglycerides. There are five primary types of hyperlipidemia. The type depends on which lipid in the blood is high. If not treated, high lipids can cause heart disease, hardening of the arteries, or stroke.

Causes:
Causes may include:
  • A family history of hyperlipidemia
  • A diet high in total fat, saturated fat, or cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Certain conditions, including:
    • Diabetes
    • Low thyroid
    • Kidney problems
    • Liver disease
    • Cushing's syndrome
  • Certain drugs, such as:
    • Hormones or birth control pills
    • Beta-blockers
    • Some diuretics
    • Cortisone drugs
    • Isotretinoin (for acne)
Risk Factors:
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.

Risk factors include:

  • Advancing age
  • Adult men (any age)
  • Postmenopause
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Overuse of alcohol
Symptoms:
Hyperlipidemia usually does not cause symptoms. Very high levels of lipids in the blood may cause fat deposits in the skin or tendons (xanthomas). Extremely high levels of triglycerides in the blood can cause pain, enlargement or swelling (inflammation) of abdominal organs such as the liver, spleen, or pancreas (pancreatitis). The most significant consequence of hyperlipidemia involves obstruction of blood vessels throughout the body, particularly those that serve the heart and brain. Individuals with hyperlipidemia are at increased risk of:
  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
Diagnosis:
Hyperlipidemia is diagnosed with blood tests that measure the levels of lipids in the blood. The National Cholesterol Education Program advises that adults have their blood lipids checked at least once every five years, starting at age 20.

Testing may consist of a fasting blood test for total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol), HDL (good cholesterol), and triglycerides. Your doctor may recommend more frequent or earlier testing for reasons such as:

  • You have a family history of hyperlipidemia
  • You have a risk factor or disease that may cause hyperlipidemia
  • You have a complication that may result from hyperlipidemia
Treatment:
Diet and lifestyle changes can help treat hyperlipidemia. In some cases, a combination of diet and lifestyle changes and medication may be required.Diet Changes
  • Eat a diet low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
  • Reduce or eliminate the amount of alcohol you drink.
  • Increase consumption of high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
Lifestyle Changes
  • If you are overweight, lose weight.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Exercise regularly. Get your doctor's okay before starting exercise, because people with hyperlipidemia may already have hardening of the arteries or heart disease, which increase the risk of a heart attack or death while exercising.
Medications
There are a number of drugs available to treat hyperlipidemia. If medication is required, talk to your doctor about your options.

Prevention:
To reduce your chance of getting hyperlipidemia:
  • Starting at age 20, get regular blood tests for total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides at least once every five years. Get tested earlier or more often if your doctor advises it.
  • Eat a diet low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
  • Don't smoke. If you smoke, quit.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. This means no more than two drinks per day for men or one drink per day for women.
  • If you are overweight, lose weight.
  • Exercise regularly. If you are unaccustomed to exercise, first check with your doctor.
  • If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under tight control.
  • Since some drugs may contribute to hyperlipidemia, discuss potential side effects of any medications you take with your doctor.
 
 
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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