What is Hyperlipidemia?

Hyperlipidemia is the medical term for high cholesterol. Hyperlipidemia usually has no symptoms, so many people may not be aware that they have high cholesterol.
Hyperlipidemia is the medical term for high cholesterol. Hyperlipidemia usually has no symptoms, so many people may not be aware that they have high cholesterol.

Hyperlipidemia is the medical term for high cholesterol. Specifically, it’s an umbrella term referring to the different disorders that result in high levels of lipids (fats) in the blood. 

Hyperlipidemia is a common problem throughout the world, especially in developed countries. More than 3 million people in the United States and Europe have hyperlipidemia. It can be inherited, but is more often the result of an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise.

Some factors that put you at a higher risk of having high cholesterol include:

If left untreated, your risk of serious health issues increases. It can lead to 

Signs and symptoms of hyperlipidemia

Hyperlipidemia usually has no symptoms, so many people may not be aware that they have high cholesterol. As such, it’s important to have your cholesterol levels checked with a blood test. 

Very high levels of LDL cholesterol may cause symptoms, but this tends to occur in people who have a family history of high cholesterol. These symptoms include:

  • Fatty bumps on the skin (xanthomas)
  • Gray-white rings around the corneas (corneal arcus)

Causes of hyperlipidemia

Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance that travels through the bloodstream on lipoproteins. It’s essential to many of our body’s processes, such as making cells, vitamins, and hormones. Cholesterol is also found in animal products. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs. 

There are two types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): This is known as the “bad” cholesterol.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL): This is the “good” cholesterol that helps regulate cholesterol levels by bringing it back to the liver. There, it’s broken down and passed out from the body.

Hyperlipidemia can be inherited, as it runs in some families, but for the most part, it’s caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as:

An unhealthy diet

There are lots of bad fats in tasty foods. Saturated fats are found naturally in many foods, mostly animal products like meat and dairy. Also, many baked and fried foods have high levels of saturated fats. 

Trans fats are found mostly in processed foods, such as fried, baked, and processed foods. Eating foods high in fat causes your body to produce more LDL cholesterol

Lack of exercise

If you live a sedentary lifestyle, this lowers your HDL cholesterol.

Smoking

Smoking lowers your HDL cholesterol and raises your LDL cholesterol.

QUESTION

What is cholesterol? See Answer

Diagnosing hyperlipidemia

There are usually no symptoms that you have high cholesterol. A blood test can measure your cholesterol. When you should get this test depends on:

It’s recommended that adults 20 years and older check their cholesterol every 4 to 6 years if their risk is low. Children should get it checked once between the ages of 9 to 11, then again between 17 to 21.

Your doctor will order a blood test called a lipoprotein panel. You’ll need to fast (not eat and drink anything besides water) for 9 to 12 hours before the test. 

Your blood sample is analyzed in a lab to check the levels of total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides. Triglycerides aren’t a type of cholesterol but a type of fat. These are mostly found in animal fats and vegetable oils, as well as extra calories that your body turns into triglycerides.

Treatments for hyperlipidemia

Hyperlipidemia is typically a life-long disease. But it can be treated if you exercise regularly and watch what you eat. Your doctor might prescribe medication, too. 

Exercise has been shown to increase levels of HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol. Try to do at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic (cardio) exercise most days.

When it comes to diet, there are many ways to improve your cholesterol, such as:

  • Eat fewer foods with cholesterol
  • Eat healthier fats, like unsaturated oils
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Eat more foods with soluble fiber, such as whole grains
  • Cut down salt intake
  • Drink less alcohol 

For some people, medication may also be needed. These include:

  • Statins: This reduces the liver’s production of cholesterol and increases its ability to remove LDL cholesterol.
  • Bile acid sequestrants: This stops the stomach’s bile acid from being absorbed in the blood. The liver then uses cholesterol from the blood to make bile acid, reducing your cholesterol level.
  • Niacin or Nicotinic acid: A type of B vitamin that reduces LDL and increases HDL cholesterol.
  • Fibrates: This lowers triglyceride levels in the blood and may also increase HDL cholesterol.  
  • PCSK9 inhibitors: This is used mostly for people with a genetic condition that causes high levels of LDL cholesterol called hypercholesterolemia.

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Medically Reviewed on 1/4/2021
References
American Heart Association: "How To Get Your Cholesterol Tested."

American Heart Association: Prevention and Treatment of High Cholesterol (Hyperlipidemia)."

American Heart Association: "Saturated Fat."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Cholesterol."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Cholesterol-lowering Medicine."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Getting Your Cholesterol Checked."

MedlinePlus: "Bile acid sequestrants for cholesterol."

MedlinePlus: "Cholesterol."

MedlinePlus: "Facts about trans fats."

MedlinePlus: "Fibrates."

MedlinePlus: "HDL: The "Good" Cholesterol."

MedlinePlus: "How to Lower Cholesterol with Diet."

MedlinePlus: "Familial combined hyperlipidemia."

MedlinePlus: "Triglycerides."

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "Blood Cholesterol."

StatPearls: "Hyperlipidemia."