Hyperlipidemia is a condition characterized by high level of lipids (fats / cholesterol) circulating in the blood. There are different types of hyperlipidemias, all of which are risk factors for developing heart disease.
Other factors such as genetics, environment, habits, and the presence of other diseases such as diabetes and hypertension may also contribute to the development of heart disease. Some of these factors are within our control; others are not.
Studies have shown an association between high blood cholesterol and premature heart attacks. Excess cholesterol in the blood can collect in the arteries and form a plaque (a raised lesion on the inside of an artery).
Over time, this plaque can build up and narrow the arteries, which in turn may clog the flow of blood. This process can begin in early childhood and may eventually result in coronary artery disease, heart attacks or stroke.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a naturally occurring substance found in all foods derived from animals such as, meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy products. Cholesterol is not present in foods derived from plants.
Humans also manufacture cholesterol in our bodies. Dietary cholesterol, as well as other fats in the diet, may be absorbed by the body and raise blood cholesterol.
Cholesterol is necessary for life. It is a building block for hormones and a component of cell membranes. The goal of treating patients with elevated blood cholesterol levels is not to eliminate cholesterol from the blood, but to achieve and maintain a safe level.
Doctors generally recommend that total blood cholesterol be below 170 mg/dl for children 2-19 years.
If an initial blood test shows a high total cholesterol level, the next step is to do a more detailed analysis to determine the balance of two types of cholesterol: LDLs and HDLs. This is called a lipid profile, which is generally done after a 10-12 hour period of fasting, without any food or beverage.
When your doctor obtains a fasting lipid profile, your results are generally presented as Total cholesterol, Triglyceride, HDL and LDL cholesterol (in some instances you will get a VLDL level as well).
Total cholesterol is a measurement reflecting the presence of three particles in the blood:
- High density lipoprotein (HDL)
- Low density lipoprotein (LDL)
- Very low density lipoprotein (VLDL)
HDLs and LDLs are two different kinds of cholesterol particles and VLDLs are rich in triglycerides (or fats). Collectively, cholesterol and triglycerides are known as lipids.
HDL and LDL particles are covered with a protein that allows them to dissolve in the bloodstream. LDL particles, commonly referred to as "bad" cholesterol, carry most of the body's cholesterol which may be deposited in the blood vessels to begin formation of plaque.
This process is associated with the development of cardiovascular disease. HDLs, referred to as "good" cholesterol, in contrast, seem to offer protection against cardiovascular disease by carrying some of the cholesterol out of the bloodstream and preventing it from being deposited.
Triglycerides are fats circulating in your bloodstream.