Hyperlipidemia is the scientific name given to the condition more commonly called high cholesterol or simply, cholesterol.
Hyperlipidemia occurs when there is an excess of fatty substances, called lipids, in the blood.
These fatty substances are mostly cholesterols and triglycerides. They move around the bloodstream attached to proteins and are called lipoproteins.
The two lipoproteins that we hear about are LDLs or Low Density Lipoproteins (the bad ones) and HDLs or High Density Lipoproteins (the good ones). At the proper levels, these lipids have important functions; they are only a problem when the levels are too high.
When your doctor tells you that you have hyperlipidemia, he is saying that your bad cholesterol (LDL) is too high, and your good cholesterol (HDL) could be too low.
He knows this because he would have sent you for a blood test to measure the lipid levels. It is widely believed that excess LDLs will lead to heart attack because it causes blockage of the arteries.
The fatty substances deposit on the walls of the arteries which has the effect of narrowing and hardening the arteries, reducing vital blood flow. High triglyceride levels usually accompany low HDL levels, and are believed to contribute to a higher risk of coronary heart disease.
Your doctor may have told you that most cases of hyperlipidemia are caused by lifestyle habits and contributors include obesity, smoking and lack of exercise but there are also medical conditions that can cause hyperlipidemia.
Men over 45 and women over 55 have a greater chance of developing hyperlipidemia, and there are hereditary implications as well.
So, what are the optimum levels of LDLs, HDLs and triglycerides? What is the benchmark against which your test results are measured?
- LDL should be less than 130 mg/dL
- HDL should be greater than 40 mg/dL for men and 50 mg/dL for women
- Total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dL
- Triglycerides should be less than 200 mg/dL
There are ways to reduce your hyperlipidemia or high lipid levels, and the treatment recommended by your doctor will depend on the level of LDLs and triglycerides in your blood.
Lifestyle changes are usually the first stage in treatment, but medication may be prescribed if it is warranted. Take responsibility for your own health and reduce the dependence on prescription medications and their unwanted side effects.
If you smoke, quit. There are absolutely no benefits to smoking except that it might have a calming effect. Find an alternate method of stress management – try yoga, meditation or exercise. There is loads of help for quitters; see your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
If you have hyperlipidemia, you are probably overweight. Write down what you eat for a whole day, and then look over the list. The cause of your hyperlipidemia is likely to be on the list.
Cut down on foods loaded with saturated fat like all fast food, all fried food, eggs, whole milk products and fatty meat. Make the time to cook and prepare you own meals at home so you know exactly what you are eating.
Include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables (raw or steamed) in your diet as well as whole grain foods to increase the amount of dietary fiber you are eating. Include Omega-3 rich foods like salmon, which help to lower triglycerides.
Lastly, get out and move; go for a 20 minute walk on most days of the week. Exercise will help with weight loss, fitness and general health and well-being.
Make these few lifestyle changes and you will find that your cholesterol levels are much closer to normal when you have your next blood tests. You will be “treating” your own hyperlipidemia.