Managing hyperlipidemia means controlling cholesterol and triglycerides.
Hyperlipidemia is a mouthful, but it’s really just a fancy word for too many lipids – or fats – in the blood.
That can cover many conditions, but for most people, it comes down to two well-known terms: high cholesterol and high triglycerides. Our bodies make and use a certain amount of cholesterol every day, but sometimes that system gets out of whack, either through genetics or diet. Higher levels of the “good" HDL cholesterol are associated with decreased risk of heart disease and stroke. HDL helps by removing cholesterol from your arteries, which slows the development of plaque. The “bad” LDL cholesterol, on the other hand, can lead to blockages if there’s too much in the body.
What’s the treatment?
If you are diagnosed with hyperlipidemia, your overall health status and risks will help guide treatment. Making healthy diet choices and increasing exercise are important first steps in lowering your high cholesterol. Depending on your overall risk, your doctor may also prescribe medication in conjunction with healthy eating and regular exercise.
“The combination of diet and regular physical activity is important even if you’re on medication for high cholesterol,” said Dr. Vincent Bufalino, an American Heart Association volunteer. “It’s the most critical piece.”
Consulting a doctor is important, since each condition has it quirks. For people with high triglycerides, for example, alcohol can be particularly dangerous. But for those with high cholesterol, a daily glass of wine or other alcohol, along with healthy eating and exercise, may actually help, Dr. Bufalino said.
Once I have it, can I reverse it?
Hyperlipidemia can be improved in many cases through healthy eating and regular exercise.
Here are some tips on how to manage your risk of high cholesterol.
- Read food labels and choose foods with low cholesterol and saturated trans fat. For people who would benefit from lowering their cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends aiming for a dietary pattern that limits saturated fat to 5 to 6 percent of daily calories and reduces the percent of calories from trans fat.
- Limit your intake of red meat and dairy products made with whole milk to reduce your saturated and trans fat. Choose skim milk, lowfat or fat-free dairy products. Limit fried food, and use healthy oils in cooking, such as vegetable oil.
- Increase the amount of fiber you eat. A diet high in fiber can help lower cholesterol levels by as much as 10 percent, Dr. Bufalino said.
- Check your family history of high cholesterol. Are you more prone to high cholesterol based on genetics? If so, take steps to minimize your risk through diet and exercise.
- Lose extra weight. A weight loss of 10 percent can go a long way to lowering your risk of or reversing hyperlipidemia.
Learn more about cholesterol:
- Prevention and Treatment of High Cholesterol
- Good vs. Bad Cholesterol
- What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean
- Cholesterol IQ Quiz