What is Hyperlipidemia (Elevated Cholesterol)?
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that’s found in the fats (lipids) in your blood. Cholesterol is carried through your blood, attached to proteins. This combination of proteins and cholesterol is called a lipoprotein. There are different types of cholesterol, based on what type of cholesterol the lipoprotein carries:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol transports cholesterol particles throughout your body. LDL cholesterol builds up in the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL, or “good,” cholesterol picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to your liver.
How does Hyperlipidemia, Elevated Cholesterol, happen?
While your body needs cholesterol to continue building healthy cells, having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. When you have high cholesterol, you may develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits make it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries.
There are general guidelines that providers use for cholesterol goals:
|Total cholesterol (U.S. and some other countries)||Total cholesterol* (Canada and most of Europe)|
|Below 200 mg/dL||Below 5.2 mmol/L||Desirable|
|200-239 mg/dL||5.2-6.2 mmol/L||Borderline high|
|240 mg/dL and above||Above 6.2 mmol/L||High|
(Mayo Clinic, 2016)
Who is likely to have hyperlipidemia?
Factors that may increase your risk of high cholesterol include:
Poor diet. Eating saturated fat, found in animal products, and trans fats, found in some commercially baked cookies and crackers, can raise your cholesterol level. Foods that are high in cholesterol, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, will also increase your total cholesterol.
Having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater puts you at risk of high cholesterol.
Large waist circumference. Your risk increases if you are a man with a waist circumference of at least 40 inches (102 centimeters) or a woman with a waist circumference of at least 35 inches (89 centimeters).
Lack of exercise. Exercise helps boost your body’s HDL, or “good,” cholesterol while increasing the size of the particles that make up your LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, which makes it less harmful.
Cigarette smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels, making them likely to accumulate fatty deposits. Smoking may also lower your level of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol.
High blood sugar contributes to higher LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. High blood sugar also damages the lining of your arteries.
Symptoms of hyperlipidemia:
High cholesterol has no symptoms.
A blood test is the only way to detect high cholesterol.
Complications of hyperlipidemia:
High cholesterol can cause atherosclerosis, a dangerous accumulation of cholesterol and other deposits on the walls of your arteries. These deposits (plaques) can reduce blood flow through your arteries, which can cause complications, such as chest pain, heart attack, or stroke.
Treatment for hyperlipidemia
Lifestyle changes are the first line of defense against high cholesterol:
1. Eat heart-healthy foods:
- Choose healthier fats.Saturated fat and trans fat raise your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. The most common sources of saturated fat in the diet are red meat, processed meats and dairy products that are not fat-free. Monounsaturated fat — found in olive and canola oils — is a healthier option. Avocados, almonds, pecans and walnuts are other sources of healthy fat.
- Avoid trans fats.Trans fats, which are often found in margarines and commercially baked cookies, crackers and snack cakes, are particularly bad for your cholesterol levels. Not only do trans fats increase your total LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, but they also lower your HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Foods listing “partially hydrogenated oils” in the ingredients contain trans fats.
- Limit your dietary cholesterol.The most concentrated sources of cholesterol include organ meats, egg yolks and whole milk products. Use lean cuts of meat and skim milk instead. Limit the intake of eggs to no more than 7 a week.
- Select whole grains.Various nutrients found in whole grains promote heart health. Choose whole-grain breads, whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat flour and brown rice. Oatmeal and oat bran are other good choices.
- Stock up on fruits and vegetables.Fruits and vegetables are rich in dietary fiber, which can help lower cholesterol. Snack on seasonal fruits. Experiment with vegetable-based casseroles, soups and stir-fries.
- Eat heart-healthy fish.Some types of fish — such as cod, tuna and halibut — have less total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than do meat and poultry. Salmon, mackerel and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help promote heart health.
- Drink alcohol only in moderation.Moderate use of alcohol may increase your levels of HDL cholesterol — but the benefits aren’t strong enough to recommend alcohol for anyone who doesn’t drink already. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation. This means no more than one drink a day for women and one to two drinks a day for men.
2. Lose extra pounds:
Excess weight contributes to high cholesterol. Losing even 5 to 10 pounds can help lower total cholesterol levels.
3. Exercise regularly:
Regular exercise can help improve your cholesterol levels.
4. Don’t smoke:
Cigarette smoking increases your risk of heart disease because it damages your blood vessels and speeds up the accumulation of plaque within arteries.
If you’ve made these important lifestyle changes and your cholesterol levels remain high, your provider may recommend medication.
For additional information, please seek further guidance from your primary care provider.
Mayo Clinic. (2016). High cholesterol. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/es-es/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350806
University of Rochester Medical Center. (2017). Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol). Retrieved from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/highland/departments-centers/cardiology/conditions/high-cholesterol-hyperlipidemia.aspx