What is Hyperlipidemia?
Lipids are fats present inside our bodies or in the food that we ingest. Lipids are water soluble and therefore, are usually covered with protein layer for their effective transportation. Whenever the quantity of any of these lipids or sometimes all of these lipids or lipoproteins is increased inside the body, then it gives rise to a condition known as hyperlipidemia.
Hypercholesterolemia which is sometimes confused with hyperlipidemia is actually just a part of hyperlipidemia which in turn is the most common form of dyslipidemia which refers to any abnormality in the lipid levels inside the human body.
Hyperlipidemia is more often than not a life-long condition resulting from the increased levels of different types of fats in your body which can be genetic or it can also be caused by some other disorder such as diabetes. Even though hyperlipidemia is usually there to stay for a long time, it can be easily managed and controlled by some medications as well as exercise, balanced and healthy diet and some lifestyle changes.
Causes of Hyperlipidemia
Hyperlipidemia can be caused by some genetic abnormalities but it can also happen due to some other disorders that change the lipid metabolism of the body. One other main cause of hyperlipidemia is eating foods which contain high quantities of saturated fats, trans-fats and cholesterol. These fatty and oily foods can cause an increase in the levels of lipids inside the body resulting into hyperlipidemia.
Some of the foods that can cause hyperlipidemia include fried foods, processed foods and foods containing a lot of butter, oil, lard or cream. Cheese, ice-cream, meat especially red meat, cake and egg yolks are some of the foods that have a high risk of causing hyperlipidemia.
Putting on extra weight and not exercising enough can also cause hyperlipidemia especially if you have a history of hyperlipidemia in your family. Old age is also one of the reasons for hyperlipidemia. As a person’s age increase, it becomes quite easy for lipid levels to rise as well. This happens because the person, in most cases, is no longer as active as he or she was before. This is especially true for cholesterol levels which rise quite rapidly in old age.
Types of Hyperlipidemia
Hyperlipidemia is basically of three types depending on the cause of the disorder. They are as follows:
Familial or Primary Hyperlipidemia
Familial hyperlipidemia which is also known as primary hyperlipidemia is when it is inherited in the patient. If such is the case, the patients usually have a long history of hyperlipidemia in their families. It is caused by the genetic abnormalities present in the pedigree which are inherited from one generation to other.
Acquired or Secondary Hyperlipidemia
Secondary hyperlipidemia also known as acquired hyperlipidemia is, as the name suggests, acquired in one’s lifetime. This type of hyperlipidemia is usually caused by some other disorders present in the body which alter the plasma lipid and lipoprotein metabolism of the human body. It is usually caused due to diabetes mellitus and the use of some specific types of drugs though kidney and endocrine disorders may also play a role in causing this type of hyperlipidemia.
There is one other type of hyperlipidemia on the basis of this particular classification and that is, idiopathic hyperlipidemia. The cause for this type of hyperlipidemia remains unknown. Even though some doctors believe, that this type of hyperlipidemia is caused by an unhealthy diet or eating foods that have been known to cause hyperlipidemia.
There is one other method of classifying hyperlipidemia and that is according to the lipids whose quantity or level has increased in the blood of the body. They are as given below:
- When the level of cholesterol increases in the body
- When the level of triglycerides are high in the humans
- Combined Hyperlipidemia
- When the level of both of the above given fats is high in the body of the humans
Symptoms of Hyperlipidemia
Hyperlipidemia mostly goes unnoticed in the preliminary stages though later on it results into a variety of problems. The earliest danger signs of hyperlipidemia may include increased weight, breathlessness when doing something like walking or climbing stairs and increased blood pressure.
If the hyperlipidemia disorder is quite progressed, it can also cause acute pancreatitis, hepatosplenomegaly and some types of xanthomas.
Risk Factors of Hyperlipidemia
When lipids increase in the blood, they get deposited along the inside walls of the arteries making them narrower and narrower. This makes it difficult for the blood to pass through. Narrowing of the blood vessels causes their diameter to reduce and thus causes an increase in the blood pressure of the person suffering from hyperlipidemia.
Increased amount of fats or lipids in blood due to hyperlipidemia can also cause the formation of a blood clot. If the clot travels to the heart, it can cause blockage of the heart resulting into heart attack or even heart failure.
If the same clot goes to the brain of the patient suffering from hyperlipidemia, it can cause brain hemorrhage.
Diagnosis of Hyperlipidemia
Hyperlipidemia can be diagnosed with the help of a blood test known as lipoprotein panel. It is recommended to get your lipid levels checked regularly which should be after every 4 to 6 years after 20 years of age. This duration should be even less if you have a history of hyperlipidemia in your family.
This blood test checks the level of your LDL or “bad” cholesterol and HDL or “good” cholesterol as well as triglycerides levels in your blood. Your doctor may ask you to fast 12 to 14 hours before the testing.
The level of lipids that should be present in your blood depends on a number of factors such as age, height, genetics and smoking habits etc.
Treatment of Hyperlipidemia
Treatment of hyperlipidemia is done both by medications and by some lifestyle changes. Although a combination of both these methods is most effective in treating a patient suffering from hyperlipidemia.
Sometimes it is enough to treat hyperlipidemia patients by lifestyle changes alone but at other times they need a little bit more help and that is when these drugs come into play. Some of the medications used to treat hyperlipidemia are given here:
Statins are the most popular drugs to control hyperlipidemia. They are a class of lipid lowering medications and prevent the liver from making lipids especially cholesterol.
Nicotinic acid also known as niacin is an organic compound and is a part of Vitamin B3 complex. It lowers the level of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the body. It also increases HDL cholesterol and thus helps in treating hyperlipidemia.
They are a class of amphipathic carboxylic acid and work on your liver to lower the fat and lipid content of the blood. They act as hypolipidemic agents.
Selective Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitor
Selective cholesterol absorption inhibitor is another type of drug that actually prevents the intestine from absorbing the fats and lipids that you have ingested through food. Hence the drug helps in treating hyperlipidemia.
If you change your lifestyle a little you can easily control your hyperlipidemia. All you have to do is follow these steps:
Healthy and Balanced Diet
You should strive to eat a healthy and balanced diet if you want to manage your hyperlipidemia. Here are some points to make you eat healthy and stay happy:
- Hyperlipidemia patients should try to avoid foods that are high in trans-fat and saturated fats such as red meat and whole milk dairy products.
- Try to eat foods with high fiber content such as leafy vegetables, whole fruits instead of fruit juice, whole grains and nuts if you are trying to control hyperlipidemia. Eating more fiber can reduce your fat levels up to 10 percent.
- Hyperlipidemia patients should substitute whole milk with low-fat or skim milk.
- Eat tofu instead of whole milk cheese.
- Eating fish twice a week is also beneficial for hyperlipidemia patients as it increases HDL cholesterol levels in the body.
- Hyperlipidemia patients should also use healthy oils for cooking such as vegetable oil or olive oil.
- Be aware and know your facts which means knowing which foods are rich in fats and which are not.
- Do not use processed food but if you absolutely have to, choose something that is low in fats.
Regular exercise can also help you in keeping your hyperlipidemia in check. Be more physically active and try to exercise regularly. You can start with 10 to 15 minutes of brisk walking or light jogging and progress from there. You can also take up dance classes or try swimming. 30 to 40 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise should be enough to regulate your hyperlipidemia.
Smoking and Drinking Habits
Try to curb your smoking and drinking habits as they adversely affect hyperlipidemia. Try to avoid drinking if you can but if you absolutely have to drink then hyperlipidemia patients should not drink more than a glass or two of alcohol a day. If you are a smoker, try to quit smoking as it aggravates hyperlipidemia and if you do not smoke then try to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
Excess weight is one of the first symptoms of hyperlipidemia and it also lowers the level of LDL cholesterol in blood which in turn causes more accumulation of lipids and fats in the body. So, hyperlipidemia patients should try to lose weight.
So these were some of the tips which will come in handy if you are suffering from hyperlipidemia and knowing about it will also help you to manage it effectively.