What is dyslipidemia?
Dyslipidemia refers to the medical condition where your lipid levels, be it LDL, HDL, triglycerides or a combination of them, are abnormal. The most common form of dyslipidemia is hyperlipidemia or high lipid levels. In this condition, your LDL or triglyceride levels are high, whereas your HDL levels are low. As a result, your risk of getting heart disease doubles. The lesser-known form of dyslipidemia, termed hypolipidemia, refers to lipid levels that are abnormally low. Like high blood pressure, you could suffer from dyslipidemia and be unaware of it until you undergo a lipid profile blood test.
The desired lipid levels are:
- Total cholesterol: Below 200 mg/dL
- HDL cholesterol: For men, it should be above 40 mg/dL, for women it should be above 50 mg/dL
- LDL cholesterol: Below 100 mg/dL; below 70 mg/dL for people with diabetes or heart diseases
- Triglycerides: Below 150 mg/dL
Who is at risk for dyslipidemia?
Some of the risk factors for dyslipidemia include:
- Age: As you grow older, it gets difficult for your body to clear the excess cholesterol from the blood.
- Gender: Men tend to have lower HDL levels than women. Women, under the age of 55, usually have lower LDL levels.
- Family history: People whose parents or grandparents have a history of high cholesterol are at a higher risk of developing it.
What are the chief reasons for dyslipidemia?
- Obesity: Being obese increases the amount of LDL cholesterol that your liver makes; it also decreases the removal of LDL cholesterol from your blood.
- Wrong food choices: Eating foods that are high in saturated and trans fats, such as full-fat dairy, red meat, and bakery products, increases LDL and decreases HDL. Besides, frequently consuming sugar-rich foods, like cookies, chocolates, and desserts, and beverages, like cola and packaged fruit juices, stimulates the liver to dump harmful fats into your bloodstream.
- Alcohol: Excess consumption of alcohol shoots up the cholesterol and triglycerides circulating in your blood. Plus, with a drink in your hand, you cannot resist peanuts, bar nuts, chips, fries, and cheese. This craving for high-fat foods spells double trouble for your cholesterol.
- Hypothyroidism: Your body needs thyroid hormones to produce and throw out the cholesterol it doesn’t need. In the case of hypothyroidism, your body doesn’t break down and remove LDL cholesterol as efficiently, which leads to the deposit of LDL cholesterol in your arteries.
- Diabetes: Insulin resistance, which is a characteristic of people with type 2 diabetes, affects the way your body produces and disposes of cholesterol. Additionally, people with diabetes tend to have higher LDL and triglycerides as well as lower HDL.
Besides these causes, the other contributing factors to dyslipidemia are:
- Lack of exercise
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Kidney disease
- Medicines such as beta-blockers, diuretics, birth control pills, and antidepressants.
What are the symptoms of dyslipidemia?
Unfortunately, most people with dyslipidemia are unaware that they have it since it produces no symptoms. A lipid profile diagnostic test is the only way to detect the disease.
What are the long-term implications of dyslipidemia?
In the long run, elevated cholesterol levels damage your arteries as well as your organs.
Some of the consequences of dyslipidemia are as follows:
- Heart attacks or stroke
- Peripheral artery disease: Reduced blood flow to legs due to blockage in the arteries
- Atherosclerosis: Narrowing of arteries because of plaque deposit in the arteries
- Coronary artery disease (CAD): A blockage in the arteries of your heart
- Arteriosclerosis: Hardening or stiffening of the artery walls
How can you treat dyslipidemia?
A combination of medication and lifestyle modifications is the recommended treatment for dyslipidemia.
The most common drugs prescribed for the disease include:
- Bile acid sequestrants
- Evolocumab and Alirocumab
- Lomitapide and Mipomersen
- PCSK9 inhibitors
Along with these medicines, you need to make the following lifestyle changes:
- Lose weight: even shedding 5-10% of the excess weight will reap huge benefits;
- Exercise, be it cycling, walking or hitting the gym for 30 minutes at least thrice a week;
- Drink alcohol in moderation: ideally, not more than four drinks in a week;
- Stop smoking;
- Cut your intake of sugar, bakery products, sweets, fried foods, and junk food;
- Include two teaspoons of Omega-3 rich foods such as flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds in your diet;
- Reduce your consumption of saturated fats such as butter, ghee, cream, red meat, and full-fat dairy. Swap these foods for nuts, oilseeds, lean meats, especially fish, and low-fat/skimmed milk products; and
- Eat a minimum of five servings of fruits and veggies daily.