Hyperlipidemia (High Cholesterol)
Your blood lipids can be checked to see whether or not you are at higher than average risk for heart disease. When we check your lipid levels, we check several elements of your lipids which will tell us if you need to be treated for a lipid disorder. Cholesterol is a sterol of high molecular weight. It really isn’t a fat but is soluble in fat so it’s often referred to as a fat. Cholesterol is an important molecule in our bodies that is necessary for body healing, for the making of cell walls and for the production of reproductive hormones. Cholesterol, generally, isn’t bad for you. Your brain uses it in healthy amounts and cholesterol in eggs is known to help poor memory. Infants need cholesterol for normal brain development and cholesterol is found in high amounts in breast milk. The myelin that surrounds our nerve fibers contains cholesterol. We need our cholesterol to make the bile salts that aid in digestion. Finally, cholesterol is used in our skin to protect the skin from water soluble invaders.
Where does Cholesterol come from?
Cholesterol is found in animal tissue only and is a part of animal membranes. Our body produces cholesterol, particularly the liver. While we eat cholesterol in the diet, it doesn’t help if we reduce dietary cholesterol because our body will just make more to catch up with the difference.
What does the blood test check for?
- Cholesterol: The total cholesterol is the amount of a type of sterol molecule that normally helps make the membranes of cells and is part of bile. It is also a precursor to the steroids made in the liver and the reproductive hormones.
- LDL-Low Density Lipoprotein: This is a carrier of fat soluble molecules like cholesterol and triglycerides. Very low-density-lipoproteins are a precursor to LDL and mostly carry triglycerides. LDL cholesterol transports triglycerides and cholesterol to parts of the body where plaques can form in the arteries.
- HDL—High Density Lipoprotein: This is a class of lipid carriers that transports cholesterol and other fat soluble molecules from the body’s tissues back to the liver. It prevents cholesterol from building up on the walls inside arteries.
- Triglycerides: This is another type of lipid in the body that is associated with the development of heart disease. It is also seen as elevated in diabetes.
Are there types of high lipid diseases?
There are several types of high cholesterol and/or high triglyceride conditions.
- Type I Hyperlipoproteinemia: This is a rare condition that runs in families and causes high cholesterol. People with this disease are at higher risk of heart disease.
- Type IIA Hyperlipidemia: This occurs when there are a reduced number of LDL receptors. It is fairly common and demonstrates a high cholesterol with a normal HDL cholesterol and normal triglycerides.
- Type IIB Hyperlipidemia: This also runs in families and involves sensitivity to intake of calories and cholesterol. If the cholesterol is high, the individual is at risk for heart disease.
- Type III Hyperlipidemia: This is a rare condition involving the absence of a protein the liver transform VLDL to LDL. Patients are overweight and have cholesterol deposits, called xanthomas, in the skin. People with this disorder respond to diets low in cholesterol.
- Type IV Hyperlipidemia: This is caused by a failure of removal of probetalipoproteins in the liver. It is connected with excessive carbohydrate consumption. Avoiding carbohydrates will reduce the high lipids seen in this disorder.
- Type V Mixed Hyperlipidemia: This is a rare disease that results in chronic stomach pain and inflammation of the pancreas. Glucose intolerance is also seen.
What are the causes of hyperlipidemia?
A family history can contribute to who gets hyperlipidemia and who doesn’t. Obesity and diets high in fat and cholesterol will contribute to the disease. Certain conditions of the body can cause high lipids as well:
- Low Thyroid condition
- Liver Problems
- Kidney Problems
- Overactive Adrenal Gland
- Certain drugs
Who’s at risk for getting this problem?
Risk factors include older age, lack of exercise, smoking, stress, alcohol abuse, being male or following menopause.
Can the cholesterol level ever be too low?
Yes, it can. A paper presented to the American Heart Association’s conference on stroke indicated that people with a cholesterol of less than 180 had twice the risk of stroke due to hemorrhage than people with cholesterol levels of 230.
Are there healthy ways to reduce cholesterol?
The general recommendation is to eat a diet similar to those who live near the Mediterranean, such as Italian food, also known as the Mediterranean Diet. One should make sure the thyroid function is normal and avoid eating trans-fats, found in things like donuts and any food that has solid oil in it. One should also check to see if a person is insulin resistant or not. Insulin resistance can affect the cholesterol.