Health and Stroke

What is Hyperlipidemia?

Find out what you can do to manage hyperlipidemia 

Mar 6, 2023

Zeit Medical

Hyperlipidemia is a condition where the body has too many fats in the bloodstream. This can lead to a variety of health problems including heart disease and stroke. In this blog post, we will discuss all aspects of hyperlipidemia, from the different types of hyperlipidemia, to the various treatments available. We will also answer some common questions about this condition.

What is Hyperlipidemia?

Hyperlipidemia is a condition that occurs when there are too many lipids, or fats, in the blood. Lipids are made up in part by cholesterol and triglycerides. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is found in all cells of the body and we all need to have a normal amount of cholesterol in our blood stream for our body to work normally.

There are two main types of cholesterol in the blood: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol. Triglycerides are another type of fat that our bodies absorb from food and use as an energy source. It is normal to have all of these fats in your blood, but when they become too much, it can cause a variety of health problems.

What are the Different Types of Hyperlipidemia?

Hyperlipidemia, hypercholesterolemia, and a mixed hyperlipidemia are the most common types. Mixed hyperlipidemia is the most common type and occurs when there are high levels of both cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. Hypercholesterolemia, or high cholesterol, is a condition that occurs when there are high levels of cholesterol in the blood. Familial combined hyperlipidemia is a rare condition that runs in families and occurs when there are high levels of both cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.

What is Considered High Cholesterol?

For adults, a cholesterol level of 240 mg/dL or higher is considered high. For children and adolescents, a cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL or higher is considered high. Specifically, low-density LDL is high at a range of 160/189 mg/dL and triglycerides 200-499 mg/dL. Solely HDL is different: HDL has actually been shown to be beneficial and we should try to keep this blood fat high. HDL is recommended to be above 60 mg/dL.

What Causes Hyperlipidemia?

There are a variety of factors that can contribute to the development of hyperlipidemia. These include diet, lifestyle, genetics, and certain medical conditions:

  • Eating a diet high in saturated fats, cholesterol, processed food, and sugars;
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of exercise; sedentary lifestyle;
  • Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, can increase the risk of developing hyperlipidemia.
  • Some medications such as diuretics, birth control pills, retinoids, corticosteroids, antivirals, and anticonvulsants can also raise your cholesterol

How Does High Cholesterol Cause a Stroke?

High levels of total cholesterol (TC) and LDL are both associated with an increased risk of ischemic stroke.

When there are too many lipids in the blood, it can cause a stroke by narrowing or blocking the arteries that supply blood to the brain. This is known as cerebral atherosclerosis, a process where there is buildup of fats in the walls of the blood vessels. This waxy buildup disrupts the normal architecture of the vessel wall and is called a plaque. When the internal surface of the artery tears secondary to the plaque it is a very strong impulse for the blood to clot and block off that vessel. If this clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain, it will cause a stroke. This process can similarly disrupt blood flow to other parts of the body, for example the heart, i.e. heart attack, or the legs, i.e. peripheral vascular disease.

How to Reduce Your Risk of Complications from Hyperlipidemia

There are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of complications, like stroke, from hyperlipidemia.

  • Eat a healthy diet. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help lower cholesterol levels. Avoid processed foods, saturated fats, and sugars.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise can help to lower cholesterol levels and improve overall health.
  • Lose weight if overweight or obese. Losing weight can help lower  cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of complications from hyperlipidemia.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking is a major risk factor for developing atherosclerosis, which can lead to a stroke.
  • Stress management.  Stress can raise cholesterol levels and contribute to other health problems. Learning how to manage stress can help to lower the risk of complications from hyperlipidemia.
  • Talk to a doctor about medication. If lifestyle changes are not enough to lower cholesterol levels, a doctor may prescribe medication to help. There are a variety of cholesterol-lowering medications available, such as statins, niacin, and fibrates.

Having an understanding of hyperlipidemia is important for anyone who is at risk for developing this condition. By making lifestyle changes and talking to your doctor, you can lower your risk of complications from hyperlipidemia.

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