Story by: David Steen Martin; Reviewed by Christina M. Breit, M.D. on January 10, 2024
Hyperlipidemia means the levels of lipids such as cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood are too high. There are no hyperlipidemia symptoms, but the condition can have serious consequences for your health.
Lipids perform a number of important and useful functions in your body. Too much of these fatty compounds, however, can be harmful.
With high cholesterol, you can develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Like sludge in a pipe, these grow over time, making your arteries hard and narrow — and making it difficult for enough blood to flow through. High triglycerides also may contribute to this thickening of the artery walls.
“Although you may not feel any symptoms of hyperlipidemia, it can affect the blood vessels supplying the heart, brain and limbs,” said Christina M. Breit, M.D., an internal medicine physician with Norton Community Medical Associates primary care.
Doctors link hyperlipidemia to heart disease, including atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and other serious conditions like heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease.
The only way to know if you have hyperlipidemia is by having a blood test. You can get your lipid levels checked at an annual visit with a primary care provider. The test — called a lipid panel — is done via a blood draw.
After visiting with a Norton provider, you can choose to have your blood drawn in office or at the drive-thru Norton Healthcare Express Services if it’s more convenient. Test results are always available via Norton MyChart.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises getting cholesterol levels checked starting early in life — even in childhood.
Get care online, at your primary care provider’s office, at a Norton Immediate Care Center or through a Norton Prompt Care Clinic.
The blood test will show your total cholesterol level, LDL and HDL cholesterol and triglycerides. LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. HDL refers to high-density lipoprotein. When cholesterol travels through your blood, it is attached to a protein — a lipoprotein.
HDL is the so-called “good cholesterol” because it picks up excess cholesterol and returns it to your liver. LDL, the “bad cholesterol,” transports cholesterol throughout your body.
For adults, total cholesterol from 200 to 239 milligrams per deciliter is considered borderline high. Cholesterol 240 or above is considered high.
For the bad, LDL cholesterol, 130 to 159 milligrams per deciliter is considered borderline high, while LDL from 160 to 189 is high, and 190 and above is very high.
With HDL, higher numbers are better. Your HDL should be above 40 milligrams per deciliter for men and 50 for women. Ideally, HDL should be above 60.
A triglyceride level of 150 to 199 milligrams per deciliter is considered a borderline high level. Above 200 is considered high.
There are lifestyle changes that can help with your cholesterol levels. Regular exercise can raise your good, HDL cholesterol, while a healthy diet that avoids saturated fat or trans fat can lower your bad, LDL cholesterol. Obesity and high blood pressure put you at greater risk of high blood cholesterol.
Smoking and tobacco use lower your good, HDL cholesterol and raise the bad, LDL cholesterol. Stress and drinking too much alcohol also can raise your overall cholesterol.
Exercise and aiming for a healthy weight also will lower your triglycerides. So will limiting alcohol, starchy foods, foods and drinks high in sugar, and unhealthy fats.
In addition to lifestyle changes, medications such as statins can lower your cholesterol and lower your risk for heart attack and stroke.
According to the American Heart Association, you should get your cholesterol checked every four to six years beginning at age 20. If you have high cholesterol or other risk factors, such as diabetes, you should have your cholesterol checked more frequently.
Cholesterol tends to rise with age. Men tend to be at greater risk for high cholesterol than women, though a woman’s risk goes up with menopause.
Men over 45 and women over 55 should have their cholesterol checked every year or two, and everyone over 65 should have their cholesterol checked annually.
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