x
Dartmouth-Hitchcock logo
Summer Flowers In This Section

Cholesterol Disorders

Alternative names: Hyperlipidemia, Hyperlipoproteinemia, Hypolipidemia, Hypolipoproteinemia

What are cholesterol disorders?
What are the signs of cholesterol disorders?
What causes cholesterol disorders?
How does my doctor tell if I have a cholesterol disorder?
How are cholesterol disorders treated?

What are cholesterol disorders?

Cholesterol is essential for life, and is found in the body cells of all animals, including humans. Your body needs cholesterol to work properly. Two cholesterol disorders are hyperlipidemia, and hypolipidemia.

Hyperlipidemia means you have an unusually high level of fat (lipids) in your blood. This puts you at risk for many health problems, including heart attack and stroke. It is sometimes called high blood cholesterol.

Hypolipidemia means you have an unusually low level of fat in your blood. It is sometimes called low blood cholesterol.

What are the signs of cholesterol disorders?

There are two basic kinds of cholesterol: LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or "bad cholesterol,") and HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or "good cholesterol").

In a patient with high blood cholesterol, LDL cholesterol builds up in the inner walls of the arteries that carry blood to the heart and brain. Although many people with high cholesterol levels have no symptoms, this narrowing of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) can cause angina (chest pain), heart attack, and stroke.

Low blood cholesterol rarely causes symptoms, but it may indicate the presence of another disorder.

What causes cholesterol disorders?

High blood cholesterol

When you eat meat, eggs, and dairy products – any food that comes from an animal – you are adding cholesterol to your blood. A diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol is just one thing that may cause high blood cholesterol. Other factors include:

  • Being overweight
  • Not exercising regularly
  • Overuse of alcohol
  • Family history. High blood cholesterol can be an inherited condition.
  • Age and sex. As you age, your LDL ("bad cholesterol") level rises. After age 55, women have higher LDL levels than men.
  • Diseases like diabetes, hypothyroidism, Cushing's syndrome, and kidney failure
  • Medications like birth control pills, beta-blockers, estrogen, corticosteroids, and certain diuretics

Low blood cholesterol

Hypolipidemia can be caused by several things:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Anemia (a low amount of red blood cells)
  • Malnutrition, or a lack of food
  • Liver disease
  • The body being unable to absorb food (malabsorption)
  • Rare genetic conditions, such as hypobetalipoproteinemia and abetalipoproteinemia
  • Tangier disease

How does my doctor tell if I have a cholesterol disorder?

Blood cholesterol tests tell how much fat is in your blood. A total cholesterol level test measures both your LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or "bad cholesterol,") and HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or "good cholesterol") levels in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

Normal total cholesterol levels are below 200 mg/dL. HDL levels should be above 40 mg/dL. Triglyceride levels also should be below 200 mg/dL.

How are cholesterol disorders treated?

High blood cholesterol

Lifestyle

    To reduce cholesterol in your blood:

  • Follow a healthful diet, eating foods low in total fat and saturated fat
  • Maintain a healthful weight
  • Exercise at least three times a week, for 30 minutes at a stretch
  • Have your total cholesterol rechecked in one to two years if:
    • Your cholesterol reading was above 240 mg/dL
    • You have other risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or being overweight

Medications

  • Statins lower LDL ("bad cholesterol") levels
  • Bile Acid Sequestrants (seh-KWES-trants) are sometimes prescribed with statins, and help lower LDL cholesterol levels
  • Nicotinic (Nick-o-tin-ick) Acid lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and raises HDL ("good" cholesterol) levels
  • Fibrates lower triglyceride levels, and may increase HDL levels
  • Ezetimibe blocks cholesterol absorption, and lowers LDL cholesterol

Low blood cholesterol

Treatment focuses on the root causes of hypolipidemia

Disclaimer
Contact Us

0