Dyslipidemia is defined as low or high blood lipid levels. Lipids are fats, such as triglycerides and cholesterol.
Most people maintain lipid levels within normal limits through a balanced diet and exercise. However, some need medication to achieve this goal.
What is Dyslipidemia?
Dyslipidemia refers to the abnormal levels of blood lipids. Although the term is used to describe a wide range of conditions, the most common forms of dyslipidemia include:
- High levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol
2. Low levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol
3. High levels of triglycerides
4. High cholesterol, ie high LDL and triglycerides
5. Lipids provide energy to cells. These include:
- LDL cholesterol, which is considered harmful as it causes plaque formation in the vessels
- HDL cholesterol, which is beneficial as it helps to remove LDL from the blood
- Triglycerides, which are formed when calories are not consumed immediately and are stored in adipocytes.
Healthy blood lipid levels vary for each patient. However, patients with high levels of LDL and triglycerides as well as very low levels of HDL usually have an increased risk of developing atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis occurs when hard, fatty deposits known as plaques form in the blood vessels, thereby blocking blood flow. Gradually, these plaques accumulate, causing significant problems in blood circulation, myocardial infarction and stroke.
Most patients with dyslipidaemia do not understand its symptoms unless it is particularly severe. Your doctor will usually diagnose dyslipidaemia during blood tests for another disease.
Severe untreated dyslipidaemia can lead to other conditions, such as coronary heart disease and peripheral artery disease. The latter can cause serious health complications, such as myocardial infarction and stroke. Common symptoms of these conditions include:
- Pain in the extremities, especially when walking
- Chest pain
- Tightness or pressure in the chest and shortness of breath
- Pain, tightness or pressure on the neck, jaw, shoulders and back
- Indigestion and gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Sleep disorders and feeling tired during the day
- Feeling pulse
- Vomiting and nausea
- Swelling of the legs, ankles, stomach and veins of the throat
These symptoms are exacerbated by exercise and stress and recede during rest.
Contact your doctor immediately if you have chest pain, dizziness, fainting or difficulty breathing.
Dyslipidemia is divided into two types depending on its cause:
Primary dyslipidaemia is usually attributed to genetic factors and is therefore hereditary. The most common causes of primary dyslipidaemia include:
- Family Mixed Hyperlipidemia, which occurs in adolescents and young adults and can raise cholesterol.
- Familial Hyperlipoproteinemia, a mutation in a group of LDL proteins called apolipoproteins
- Family Hypertriglyceridemia, which causes high triglyceride levels
Homozygous familial or polygenic hypercholesterolemia, a mutation in LDL receptors
Secondary dyslipidaemia is caused by lifestyle factors or conditions that affect blood lipid levels.
The most common causes of secondary dyslipidaemia include:
- Obesity, especially the increased weight in the waist area
- Alcohol disorders or alcoholism
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Increased Fat Consumption, Highly Saturated and Trans
- Cushing’s Syndrome
- Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
- Serious infections, such as HIV
- Aneurysm of the abdominal aorta
Certain factors may increase the risk of dyslipidemia. These factors include:
- Living life
- Reduced exercise
- Use of illicit or narcotic substances
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Type 2 diabetes
- Chronic kidney or liver diseases
- Gastrointestinal diseases
- Diet rich in saturated and trans fats
- Family history of dyslipidaemia
- Female gender (women usually have higher LDL levels after menopause)
The doctor mainly focuses on reducing triglycerides and LDL. However, treatment may vary depending on the underlying cause of dyslipidemia and its severity.
Doctors may prescribe one or more lipid-lowering drugs in patients with very high levels of total cholesterol (over 200 mg/dl).
High cholesterol is usually treated with statins, which affect the production of cholesterol in the liver.
If statins are not sufficient to restore triglyceride levels within normal limits, the physician will administer additional medications, such as:
- Bile acid-binding agents
- Evolokoumba and Fishoukaroum
- Lomitapide and Mimomersen
- Certain lifestyle changes and supplements can help restore lipids to normal levels. These include:
- Restriction on eating unhealthy fats, such as those found in red meat, dairy, processed carbohydrates, chocolate and fried foods.
- Regular exercise
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Restriction on alcohol consumption
- Stop smoking
- Increasing the consumption of healthy polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, whole grains and olive oil
- Omega 3
- Increase in fibre intake from whole grains, fruits and vegetables
- 6-8 hours of sleep each night
- Adequate water consumption
Patients with mild dyslipidaemia usually have no symptoms. They can usually treat the disease with minor lifestyle changes.
Patients with dyslipidaemia should contact their physician if they experience symptoms related to the heart or bloodstream, such as:
- Angina or chest tightness
- Feeling pulse
- Swelling of the ankles and legs
- Breathing difficulty
- Nausea and gastroesophageal reflux
Patients with severe dyslipidaemia, especially those suffering from other diseases, may also need medications in addition to lifestyle changes.