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What is dyslipidemia?
Lipids (fats), together with proteins and carbohydrates, are the main components of living cells. Cholesterol and triglycerides are lipids that are stored in the body and serve as a source of energy.
When lipid levels in the bloodstream are too high or low, this condition is called dyslipidemia. The most common types of dyslipidemia are:
- High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol;
- Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol;
- High levels of triglycerides.
How common is dyslipidemia?
Dyslipidemia is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of dyslipidemia?
Dyslipidemia has no symptoms. A blood test is the only way to detect this condition.
When should I see my doctor?
Ask your doctor if you have a cholesterol test. Recommendations for the age of first screening vary. Retesting is usually performed every five years.
If your test results aren’t within desirable ranges, your doctor may recommend more frequent measurements. Your doctor may also suggest you have more frequent tests if you have a family history of dyslipidemia, heart disease or other risk factors, such as smoking, diabetes or high blood pressure.
What causes dyslipidemia?
Both modifiable and non-modifiable factors can contribute towards lipid disorders.
Factors within one’s control (modifiable):
- Include an unhealthy diet that is high in unsaturated fat and simple sugars, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.
- Certain medications such as estrogen, HIV-medication can also lead to very triglyceride levels.
Factors not within one’s control(non-modifiable): refer to the genetic make-up, an inheritable cause of lipid disorder needs to be suspected when there is a strong family history, especially if cardiovascular disease occurs in family members at a younger age (</= 55 in males and </=65 in females).
What increases my risk for dyslipidemia?
There are many risk factors for dyslipidemia, such as:
- Diabetes mellitus: high blood sugar contributes to higher LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. High blood sugar also damages the lining of your arteries.
- A family history of cardiovascular disease before age of 50 in male relatives or age of 60 in female relatives.
- A family history suggestive of family hyperlipidemia.
- Multiple coronary artery disease risk factors (e.g. Tobacco usage, hypertension, obesity).
- Poor diet: eating saturated fat, found in animal products, and trans fats, found in some commercially baked cookies and crackers.
- Large waist circumference: your risk increases if you are a man with a waist circumference of at least 102 centimeters or a woman with a waist circumference of at least 89 centimeters.
- Lack of exercise.
- Cigarette smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels, making them likely to accumulate fatty deposits.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is dyslipidemia diagnosed?
A blood test is the only way to diagnose dyslipidemia. It can help to check cholesterol levels and it typically reports:
- Total cholesterol;
- LDL cholesterol;
- HDL cholesterol;
For the most accurate measurements, don’t eat or drink anything (other than water) for 9 to 12 hours before the blood sample is taken.
How is dyslipidemia treated?
Lifestyle changes such as exercising and eating a healthy diet are the first line of defense against dyslipidemia. But, if you’ve made these important lifestyle changes and your condition still persists, your doctor may recommend medication.
The specific choice of medication or combination of medications depends on various factors, including your individual risk factors, your age, your current health, and possible side effects. Common choices include:
- Statins: statins block a substance your liver needs to make cholesterol. This causes your liver to remove cholesterol from your blood. Statins may also help your body reabsorb cholesterol from built-up deposits on your artery walls, potentially reversing coronary artery disease. Choices include atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol), lovastatin (Altoprev), pitavastatin (Livalo), pravastatin (Pravachol), rosuvastatin (Crestor), and simvastatin (Zocor).
- Bile-acid-binding resins: your liver uses cholesterol to make bile acids, a substance needed for digestion. The medications such as cholestyramine (Prevalite), colesevelam (Welchol), and colestipol (Colestid) lower cholesterol indirectly by binding to bile acids. This prompts your liver to use excess cholesterol to make more bile acids, which reduces the level of cholesterol in your blood.
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitors: your small intestine absorbs the cholesterol from your diet and releases it into your bloodstream. The drug ezetimibe (Zetia) helps reduce blood cholesterol by limiting the absorption of dietary cholesterol. Ezetimibe can be used in combination with a statin drug.
- Injectable medications: a new class of drugs can help the liver absorb more LDL cholesterol — which lowers the amount of cholesterol circulating in your blood. Alirocumab (Praluent) and evolocumab (Repatha) may be used for people who have a genetic condition that causes very high levels of LDL or in people with a history of coronary disease who have the intolerance to statins or other cholesterol medications.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage dyslipidemia?
Few natural products have been proven to reduce cholesterol, but some might be helpful. Under your doctor’s recommendation and approval, consider these cholesterol-lowering supplements and products:
- Beta-sitosterol (found in oral supplements and some margarine such as Promise Activ);
- Blond psyllium (found in seed husk and products such as Metamucil);
- Oat bran (found in oatmeal and whole oats);
- Sitostanol (found in oral supplements and some margarine such as Benecol).
If you choose to take cholesterol-lowering supplements, remember the importance of a healthy lifestyle. If your doctor prescribes medication to reduce your cholesterol, take it as directed. Make sure your doctor knows which supplements you’re taking as well.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.