Hyperlipidemia, or high cholesterol, is a common condition where there are high levels of lipids circulating in the blood. These lipids include cholesterol and triglycerides. It is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, which are leading causes of death worldwide.

Elevated cholesterol levels can lead to the formation of plaque in the arteries. This can cause blood clots and restrict blood flow to vital organs.

Types of hyperlipidemia are determined by the levels of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the body. The main types of this condition include:

  • Hypercholesterolemia: Familial hypercholesterolemia is a genetic condition caused by high levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood. Individuals with this condition have a much higher risk of developing premature cardiovascular disease. Polygenic hypercholesterolemia is caused by multiple genetic factors and leads to moderately high LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Hypertriglyceridemia: Triglycerides are a type of fat that the body uses to store energy. This condition involves high triglyceride levels that can be linked to familial hypertriglyceridemia, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

Risk Factors

There are several risk factors for hyperlipidemia. Some of the most common hyperlipidemia risk factors include:

  • Age – Your risk for developing high cholesterol increases with age.
  • Genetics – Family history of hyperlipidemia or cardiovascular disease.
  • Race – Some races may be at a higher risk than others.
  • Weight – Being overweight increases your cholesterol level.
  • Diet – Unhealthy diets high in saturated fats and cholesterol.
  • Lifestyle – Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption or lack of physical activity.

It’s important to note that hyperlipidemia may be asymptomatic. It often goes unnoticed until it is detected during routine medical checkups or screening tests. Regular health checkups and a healthy lifestyle can help manage hyperlipidemia and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases associated with high cholesterol levels. 

If you have one or more of these risk factors, work with your healthcare provider to monitor your cholesterol levels and take preventive measures to promote heart health. 

Symptoms of Hyperlipidemia

While there are usually no symptoms of hyperlipidemia, the condition can be diagnosed with a blood test. It is often considered a silent condition until complications such as heart disease and stroke arise. It’s important to manage high cholesterol to prevent more severe heart problems.

If this condition is severe or long-standing, it can lead to the development of other health conditions. This may result in certain symptoms including chest pain and shortness of breath

Routine screening and diagnosis of hyperlipidemia are crucial to identify and manage the condition. Ask your doctor more about hyperlipidemia symptoms, especially if you have one or more of the risk factors.

Detection and Diagnosis

A doctor may diagnose high cholesterol based on medical and family history, a physical examination or consistently high LDL levels on multiple blood tests. High blood pressure and hyperlipidemia put patients at higher risk of heart disease. These individuals should get their cholesterol checked and regularly receive blood pressure readings.

Hyperlipidemia diagnosis is done through a blood test known as a lipid panel or lipid profile. This test measures cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. The key parameters assessed in a lipid profile include total cholesterol, good cholesterol levels and bad cholesterol levels.

Hyperlipidemia Treatment

Regular follow-up visits with a healthcare provider are essential to monitor cholesterol levels and the response to treatment. Treatment for this disease is generally long-term. Adjustments to the treatment plan may be made as needed based on an individual’s progress.

Most cases of high cholesterol can be prevented or resolved through lifestyle changes. To manage your cholesterol levels, your doctor may recommend the following lifestyle changes or medications:

  • Diet: Adopt a heart-healthy diet that limits cholesterol and replaces saturated fats with unsaturated fats. 
  • Healthy habits: Quitting smoking is essential for improving cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Weight management: Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can help improve lipid levels. Losing excess weight can positively impact both LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • Regular physical activity: Engaging in regular exercise can help raise good cholesterol levels and improve overall heart health.
  • Medications: Some prescription medications can help lower your cholesterol level. The most commonly prescribed medications for this condition include statins and other lipid-lowering drugs.

If left untreated, hyperlipidemia can have serious health implications and side effects. The buildup of plaque in the arteries can lead to atherosclerosis, increasing the risk of heart attacks, strokes or heart failure. Talk to your doctor about taking a cholesterol test.

Related Conditions

Hyperlipidemia can cause many medical complications and lead to significant health problems. Most commonly, this condition can lead to heart attack or stroke. If you have elevated cholesterol levels, talk to your doctor about decreasing the risk of these diseases.

To learn more about related heart conditions, visit our other service pages for additional information or talk to your medical provider about your risk.