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What is Hypercholesterolemia?

Hypercholesterolemia is a health condition characterized by higher than normal levels of lipids, especially cholesterol, in your body. Lipids are a special type of naturally occurring molecule with high solubility in organic (nonpolar) solvents and low solubility in water. The major lipids present in your body are triglycerides, cholesterol, and phospholipids.

What are the Normal Levels of Lipids?

The normal values for triglycerides are:

The upper limit:

  • 151 mg/dl (1.7 mmol/l)

The lower limit:

  • For Women: 50 mg/dl (1.3 mmol/l)
  • For Men: 39 mg/dl (1.0 mmol/l)

If your lipid profile indicates any value above the normal limits, chances are you may be hypercholesterolemic.

Causes of Hypercholesterolemia

The common causes of hypercholesterolemia or high level of cholesterols may include:

  • Genetics: People with a family history of hypercholesterolemia may be more prone to developing high cholesterol levels. This is referred to as familial hypercholesterolemia.
  • Diet and Nutrition: A diet high in saturated fat and refined carbohydrates raises the lipid levels in your body.
  • Lifestyle: A sedentary or inactive lifestyle increases your chances of developing abnormal lipid levels.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypercholesterolemia

High cholesterol levels may be associated with the following signs and symptoms:

  • Presence of unusual soft, yellowish lesions on your skin called xanthomas
  • Abnormal weight gain
  • Impotence in men
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Unsteady gait
  • Pain in the lower legs

Diagnosis of Hypercholesterolemia

A diagnosis of hypercholesterolemia is based on the results of a blood test called a lipid profile which measures your total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Treatment Options for Hypercholesterolemia

The treatment approach used for correcting elevated blood lipid or high cholesterol levels includes:

  • A heart-healthy diet containing plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • An active lifestyle with plenty of cardiovascular exercises
  • Drugs to lower your blood lipid levels including statins, bile acid sequestrating agents and other nutraceuticals
  • Managing existing health conditions like diabetes, hypothyroidism, liver, kidney and heart conditions that may lead to high cholesterol levels

For severe cases, where conservative treatment fails to provide relief, your surgeon may suggest a liver transplant or bariatric surgery to control your symptoms and treat your condition.

Risks and Complications Associated with Hypercholesterolemia

A small amount of cholesterol is necessary for the maintenance of healthy cell functions and the production of hormones. Yet, excess cholesterol can be detrimental for your health.

It may start accumulating in the arteries making them narrower. As a result, the heart has to work harder to pump blood throughout your body and the narrowing of the arteries may lead to a heart attack.

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  • American College of Physicians
  • Andrews Research & Education Foundation
  • American Board of Internal Medicine
  • JJM Medical College