Hyperlipidemia or High Cholesterol: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment
Hyperlipidemia is more commonly referred to as high cholesterol. It often affects people who are overweight or elderly, but it can affect people of all ages. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that the body uses to build new cells. Some cholesterol is necessary for optimum health, but too much can cause heart problems and other health conditions. The cholesterol can build up in and cause fatty deposits in the blood system, which can lead to heart attacks and stroke. It can be inherited but is often the result of unhealthy choices. It is both preventable and treatable.
The causes of hyperlipidemia can vary from person to person. In some cases, it is inherited and out of the patient’s control. In most cases, it is caused by things that the patient can control and can, therefore, be prevented. Once the patient decides to stop making bad choices, their cholesterol usually returns to safe levels. Some of the most common causes of hyperlipidemia include:
- Poor diet
- Large waist circumference
- Lack of exercise
There are no symptoms that can point out if a person has high cholesterol. The only thing that can determine it is a blood test. Many patients don’t know they have high cholesterol until a doctor suggests that they be tested. Obesity and diabetes are often linked with hyperlipidemia. When doctors discover that a patient has one or more of these illnesses, they may suggest a high cholesterol test.
Hyperlipidemia can lead to the development of heart attack, stroke, peripheral arterial disease, and carotid artery disease.
Hyperlipidemia can be diagnosed with a blood test. Doctors will ask patients not to eat or drink anything before this test to improve the accuracy. Once the blood is taken, it will be measured. Cholesterol is measured in milliliters per deciliter. The higher the score, the higher the cholesterol. A score of 200 or below is best, a score of 200-239 is borderline high, and anything 240 and higher is considered high cholesterol.
Treatment for hyperlipidemia often depends on the cause and the patient’s lifestyle. In some cases, medications are needed, and in others, a lifestyle change will work just fine. If caught early enough, most patients do not experience complications from high cholesterol and do not require medication. Some of the most common treatments for hyperlipidemia include:
- Bile-acid-binding resins
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitors
- Injectable medications
- Omega-3 fatty acid supplements
- Limiting dietary cholesterol
- Eating more whole grains
- Eating more fruits and vegetables
- Eating heart-healthy fish
- Reducing alcohol intake
- Reducing smoking
- Exercising regularly
- Losing weight
The prognosis for hyperlipidemia is often based on the patient’s willingness to cooperate with the doctor’s order. If the high cholesterol is caught and treated before a heart attack or stroke occurs, the prognosis is much better. People who have borderline high cholesterol may be able to make lifestyle changes that prevent it from getting worse and allow them to avoid medication. In most cases, dietary changes are almost always necessary. Hyperlipidemia can also be prevented with healthy lifestyle habits.